Former NBA American player Thomas Walkup currently playing for Greek champion Olympiacos was awarded Greek citizenship earlier in the week.
He became Greek via an express procedure (honorary naturalization) signed by the Ministry of Interior, as well as the President of Greece, Katerina Sakellaropoulou
Walkup is not only eligible to play in the Greek national team as a naturalized player but will also free up a foreigner spot in Olympiacos‘ roster for the Greek league.
The 30-year-old guard, a native of Pasadena, Texas, played college basketball for Stephen F. Austin State University. Walkup was named Southland Conference Player of the Year for two consecutive seasons (2015 and 2016). Before playing at the college level, he attended Deer Park High School in Deer Park, Texas.
Walkup: From the NBA Summer League to Greek citizenship
After going undrafted in the 2016 NBA draft, Walkup joined the Golden State Warriors for the 2016 NBA Summer League. On September 26, 2016, he signed with the Chicago Bulls. However, he was later waived by the Bulls on October 21 after appearing in four preseason games.
On October 30, he was acquired by the Windy City Bulls of the NBA Development League as an affiliate player of Chicago.
On August 10, 2017, Walkup signed with MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg of the German Basketball Bundesliga for the 2017–18 season.
In April 2018, he was named to the All-German BBL First Team. On June 21, 2018, Walkup signed with Žalgiris Kaunas of the Lithuanian Basketball League. Walkup received the LKL Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2019. On 27 November 2019, Walkup extended his contract with Žalgiris until the summer of 2021.
On June 11, 2021, Walkup signed a three-year deal with the Greek club Olympiacos of the EuroLeague. On April 12, 2023, he agreed on a three-year contract extension through 2027.
Questions raised over Greek citizenship
Olympiacos rivals Panathinaikos reacted to Walkup being awarded Greek citizenship.
Eurohoops reports that, while there’s no official reaction by Panathinaikos, their communications officer, Dimitris Kontos, wrote on his social media: “In 19 months, you become a Greek while at the same time others struggle for years to get the passport of the country, though they attended its schools, hold its flag and breathed its air from babies.
“With a phone call and a piece of paper for someone who recently answered ‘I’m American,’ everything is done. Another success of the federation president Vaggelis Liolios’ administration for ‘Greek basketball’”.
Kontos is referring to the fact that being born in Greece doesn’t translate to automatic citizenship and that’s the case for many children of immigrants who are born in Greece, live in Greece, but are not automatically Greek citizens.
The most famous case of this practice is Giannis Antetokoumpo who became a Greek citizen just before the NBA draft.
There are thousands of undocumented kids in Greece like Giannis Antetokounmpo, who along with his brothers, was effectively stateless for the first eighteen years of his life, having no documents from either Nigeria or Greece since his parents had entered the country illegally.
Antetokounmpo, who was born and raised in Sepolia, Athens was granted Greek citizenship only after he was drafted into the NBA in 2013.
In 2021, his mother Veronika and his brother Alexandros, also born in Greece, were officially given the same privilege.
Related: The ‘Lost Antetokounmpos’ of Greece