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How a Greek Priest Made Giannis Antetokounmpo a Devout Christian

Priest Antetokounmpo
Father Evangelos Ghanas, the priest at Agios Meletios Church in Sepolia, baptized Giannis. Illustrations: Greek Reporter

A Greek Orthodox priest in the Sepolia area of Athens who baptized Giannis Antetokounmpo together with his brother Alexandros on October 28, 2012, spoke recently about his relationship with the NBA star and his family.

Antetokounmpo developed a special relationship many years ago with Father Evangelos Ghanas, a beloved priest at Agios Meletios Church.

Even the date of the NBA star’s baptism was deliberate, as he chose to be baptized Greek Orthodox on “OXI Day,” Greece’s second most important national holiday.

Antetokounmpo’s patriotism and respect for the Greek flag have often been remarked upon; for example, when his Greek fans in the US asked him to sign the blue-and-white flag for them, he refused.

Orthodox Priest Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo wearing the traditional costume of the Evzone at a school ceremony in Athens.

Antetokounmpo actually served as the link between his family and the parish. The years that he spent at Agios Meletios Church and their Sunday School in the poor Sepolia neighborhood were crucial for the young man in his journey to adulthood and undoubtedly contributed to the shaping of his character.

Orthodox Priest: Antetokounmpo never held a grudge

Father Evangelos spoke recently to Ethnos newspaper about the character of the young basketball phenomenon, describing him as a young man with ethics who, unlike most of his peers, never held a grudge against society for his poverty.

“I don’t remember him ever complaining or having a sense of being wronged by life and being aggressive towards society,” Father Evangelos recalled. “He may be flying on the court, but in real life I think he stands firmly on his feet.”

“What I cannot forget was Giannis’ gaze. I find it difficult to describe. There was an innocence (in his eyes) but also hope. No fear and no resentment,” Father Evangelos added.

Orthodox Priest Antetokounmpo
Young Giannis Atetokounmpo with his Sunday School class. Public Domain

The priest said that Giannis liked Sunday School, and that helped him develop a strong character, as a giving human being with optimism for the future.

Describing Antetokounmpo’s upbringing and schooling, the Greek priest stated: “Giannis went to school in Greece, became a Christian in the same country, and now he can live on the other side of the Atlantic, carrying his memories as a precious guide to his later life.”

Antetokounmpo “loved” Sunday School

According to Father Evangelos, the whole Antetokounmpo family had a good relationship with the church, mostly because of Giannis, who loved to go to Sunday School.

Father Evangelos is beloved by all the parishioners of Agios Meletios Church, in part because he has embraced the children of migrants, who are numerous in that area.

He has taken a firm stand against any actions or words which imply any possible racism and has helped children and teenagers as much as he possibly could throughout the years of his ministry.

And Antetokounmpo has not forgotten Father Evangelos. As the NBA MVP said in a previous interview, “When I was a kid, I went to Sunday School and there was a man there who was helping us a lot. You cannot imagine how much he helped.”

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