Giannis Antetokounmpo ‘feels both Greek and Nigerian’
By Johnny Askounis/ [email protected]
Born and raised in Athens to Nigerian immigrants, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s unique story led him to the NBA. Shortening the list of accomplishments, him becoming the franchise player of the Milwaukee Bucks and NBA champion in 2021 are the biggest highlights of his career so far.
Following the biopic Rise centered on his complicated childhood, the Naija Odyssey follows as he shares his journey reconciling himself with his roots between cross-cultural worlds. Opening up to ESPN about the short film, he discussed being labeled as the Greek Freak and what he wants for his children, based on feeling both Greek and Nigerian.
“I’ve heard it so many times, it doesn’t bother me. People don’t call me the Nigerian Freak, they only call me the Greek Freak. This is a time for people to understand that I’m both,” he emphasized, “You cannot choose the nickname that the people give to you. What I can tell people is that I was born and raised in Greece, I understand the Greek culture, speak the language, and know the history but at the end of the day, I know the same things about the Nigerian culture,” Giannis explained. “I’m not just one thing, you cannot tell me what I am. I can tell you how I feel and who I am. The man I am today, I feel like I am both. I am happy I have the opportunity to share my journey and my story.”
“I like the nickname, I like being the Greek Freak but I’m also a Nigerian Freak,” he added, “I am not just Greek, I am Nigerian also. Raising my kids, I won’t teach them only about the Greek culture but the Nigerian culture also. That’s what my parents did for me and that’s what I am going to try to do for my kids.”
Growing up in Athens, people considered him as an outsider, from both points of view. “Being in Greece, you’re not Greek enough. I know who I am, it’s other people’s opinion. When you’re young, it might bother you. You’re not Greek enough, there’s no way, your parents are Nigerian and you don’t have the same skin as us. Going to my Nigerian friends in the African neighborhood in Greece, ‘you are not Nigerian enough, do you speak the language, do you understand Yoruba, do you understand Igbo’, which I don’t but it doesn’t stand in the way of where I’m from,” he recalled memories.
Below, you can enjoy Antetokounmpo narrating his journey in the short film Naija Odyssey.
Photo Credit: Getty Images