“Before Giannis [Antetokounmpo] there was another Greek,” the founding owner of the Milwaukee Bucks says with a big grin on his face as he shows off his NBA Championships ring he still proudly wears almost five decades after his team won the NBA title.
“That was me, Dr. George Korkos,” he adds. Korkos then passed away on May 28, 2021, but who was he?
Korkos, a proud Greek-American, was at the helm of the Bucks when the club wrote its most glorious page in history by winning the 1971 Championships, thanks in great part to Kareem Abdul Jabaar, whom he describes as “probably the finest basketball player that ever lived,” as well as Oscar Robertson.
The Milwaukee Bucks—along with those two stars and a talented cast of role players—would go on to win sixty-six regular season games in the 1970 to 1971 season and cruise to the Championships, winning twelve of fourteen playoff games, including a 4-0 sweep of the Baltimore Bullets.
Basketball pundits consider that Bucks team as one of the most dominant in the entire history of the NBA.
Dr. George Korkos: Basketball fanatic and plastic surgeon
Korkos, who was a successful plastic surgeon, described himself as a “sports fanatic” and lamented the fact that due to his 5’6″ height (1.67 meters), he couldn’t play professional basketball himself. “I wasn’t even tall enough to be the trainer, but I loved this sports game,” he said.
With his childlike enthusiasm for the game, he was among those who helped acquire the the Milwaukee Bucks franchise on January 22, 1968. “We were so fortunate to get that franchise. And we got it because of persistence…Once we got it, we were ‘green,’ but we were growing.”
“Giannis has got to do what we had to do,” Korkos said enthusiastically. “He’s got to bring to Milwaukee another championship!” A few months after Korkos passed away, Antetokounmpo did just that.
The surgeon and basketball entrepreneur clearly remembered the first time he met Antetokounmpo when the Greek Freak was only nineteen years of age. Korkos was warned that the basketball player, newly-arrived from Athens, did not speak much English.
“I said ‘OK Gianni, we’ll talk…Greek.’ Well after about 20 minutes, my Greek went to hell, and he said: ‘Enough for today…Your Greek isn’t that good. You’d better speak English with me!'” Korkos remembered.
For his part, Antetokounmpo has great admiration for Korkos. “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for representing Greece. And you know the saying: Once a Buck, always a Buck,” the Greek Freak notes.
“I’m 100% Greek, Greek-American”
Korkos’ parents were born in the Peloponnese peninsula. His father was from the Patras area while his mother was from Sparta. “I’m 100% Greek, Greek-American,” he stated proudly, recalling his roots.
“My parents came here, they got married and had this wonderful life,” he added.
His Greek roots and love for Hellenism pushed him to co-found The National Hellenic Society, an association of Greek-American leaders, visionaries, and philanthropists who perpetuate and celebrate their homeland’s rich heritage in a multitude of ways.
Through the support of programs that foster the preservation of Hellenic heritage in the United States, The National Hellenic Society strives to be a beacon for the promotion, understanding, and appreciation of Hellenic heritage in the United States.
The Society’s mission also includes passing on the stewardship of Greek heritage and shared democratic values and ideals to the next generation.
“The mission of the National Hellenic Society is to promote, and sustain Hellenism in this country,” Korkos said. “We’re doing it through our youth program. We’re sending our youth to Greece, completely paid for.”
He noted that youngsters in the U.S.—not only those of Greek heritage—have become very very knowledgeable about Greece as a result of Antetokounmpo and the Bucks.
“He’s done a lot [for] the Greek image, and I’m happy to be his friend,” Korkos said.
The former team owner hopes that the Greek Freak will stay in Milwaukee for many years. “The matrix is such in Milwaukee that this can be his home for his entire NBA career,” he confirmed.
“I never would imagine how Greek the Milwaukee Bucks have become!” he said. “As a matter of fact, this year they signed Thanassi, his older brother. So now we have two Greeks on the team. That’s a great thing because [the club] is family orientated.”
Dr. George Korkos served on prominent medical boards
The founding father of the Milwaukee Bucks served as the President of both Plastic Surgery Associates and Rejuva Skin Care & Laser Center, and he was also an associate clinical professor at Milwaukee’s Medical College of Wisconsin.
He had been director at Fibrocell Science, Inc. since July of 2010 and served as a member of the advisory board of Skinvisible Inc. He has served as scientific advisory board member of the Cellgen Company, the Sleep Holding Company, and Skin Visible Company.
The Greek-American was a member of a number of prestigious medical societies. “If you asked me ‘George, what would you do if you’d do it over again?’ I would reply that I wouldn’t change my lifestyle at all. I love people, I care for them…Fortunately, we Greeks are lucky!” Korkos said.