Nigerian-Greek basketball superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo will play for the Greek National team at the upcoming Eurobasket 2022.
Greece National team head coach, Dimitris Itoudis, told Eurohoops magazine that he built the squad around Antetokounmpo. Rumors of Antetokounmpo’s participation on the team surfaced in late May.
A two-time NBA MVP and probably the most celebrated Greek basketball player in history, Antetokounmpo all but announced the news himself on his Twitter account July 20th. He posted three emojis and a photo of him in a cutoff T-shirt and blue shorts with the flag of Greece. He made similar posts on his other social media accounts, as well.
— Giannis Antetokounmpo (@Giannis_An34) July 20, 2022
The Greek National team last won Eurobasket in 2005. Itoudis took over the squad earlier this year. Antetokounmpo’s social media posts also came the day after his image was unveiled on an airplane of the Greek basketball federation.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Celebrated Greek Heritage
Nicknamed the Greek Freak, the 2021 NBA champion is among the most celebrated players, both in the US and internationally. His family’s compelling life story was made into a Walt Disney Studios’ biographical sports-drama, called Rise.
The movie tracks the life of Antetokounmpo and his family from Nigeria to Greece and to superstardom. Antetokounmpo served as executive producer alongside Douglas S. Jones.
Antetokounmpo was born to Nigerian immigrants who had illegally immigrated to Athens in 1994. He grew up in the city, but he was not technically considered a Greek citizen until he turned eighteen.
He often speaks of his love for Greece, and in June, visited Greece where he posed for a photograph holding his two sons during their visit to the Acropolis.
“Our annual Akropolis visit,” he captioned his father-and-sons photo on Instagram. His oldest son is now two years old while the youngest will celebrate his first birthday in August.
Antetokounmpo and his family reportedly spent their Greek holiday in the Peloponnese, where he has two Costa Navarino residences.
Antetokounmpo has also used his high profile to support causes he believes in. Later in June, he sent a message of gender equality during the opening of his new store at the Athens International Airport. He wore a shirt that read, “Men of quality don’t fear equality,” during the opening, where over a thousand fans had gathered to see the athlete.
Antetokounmpo will certainly be the focal point of the Greece National team in their quest for the Eurobasket title. His decision follows the disappointing result in the FIBA World Cup 2019 in which Greece missed the quarterfinals after a tie in the standings with the Czech Republic due to the points difference.
After getting knocked out of the tournament, Antetokounmpo voiced his displeasure at a Bucks training camp session, saying he was “mad and pissed but everything happens for a reason.”
Antetokounmpo’s Eurobasket Decision
The FIBA-NBA agreement permits NBA players to spend only 28 days away, including the official tournaments, for their national team, according to Eurohoops. So Giannis and his older brother Thanasis, his Bucks teammate, will join the rest of the squad in mid-August.
Giannis’ participation in Eurobasket comes after a scare of sorts for his basketball fans. In May, he announced he was seriously considering taking a one-year sabbatical from the NBA to “disappear” with his family to Greece.
“If I take a year off, what would I do?” he said during a press conference after a Bucks playoff game. “I would disappear. I would go to an island in Greece, stay with my family and disappear for a year.”
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