Giannis Antetokounmpo tells Jalen Rose he almost didn’t become a baller


Nigerian Greek basketball god Giannis Antetokounmpo is a superstar, with an NBA championship and three MVP awards to his name. He and his brothers Thanasis and Kostasare are the first trio of siblings to be NBA champions. He’s big, fast and powerful, and he’s bounced back from injuries like he’s Lazarus. There’s a reason he’s called the Greek Freak.

But with all that payoff, the Milwaukee Buck also brings a quirky, light-hearted and almost innocent sensibility to the game. food he saw on American shows while growing up overseas.

» I’m going to New York. My brother said to me, ‘Let’s get the chicken wings. They say it’s fire. So we grab the chicken wings. We get like a big cup of soda and we’re like, ‘We’re Americans now. Welcome to New York,” he told me on this week’s “Renaissance Man” show. As for eating them at the presser, he likes to “keep things light” in an industry that feels like a pressure cooker.

Giannis is now living the American dream. But there’s a part of culture he still doesn’t understand: the size of a soda cup.

“First of all, it’s big. And do you have refills? I can’t even finish this. Like what? Why would they fill it up? »

We are used to excess here in the United States. Giannis had none of that growing up. He was raised in Athens by undocumented Nigerian parents who survived by selling wares on the streets under constant threat of deportation. He and his brothers had few means but they fought through thick and thin to become successful basketball players. Now, his remarkable life story has been turned into « Rise, » a movie now streaming on Disney+.

When Disney approached Giannis, he couldn’t refuse; he saw the occasion as a way to honor his parents.

Giannis jumped at the chance to pay tribute to his parents with the new Disney+ movie « Rise. »
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The film and its story “are not just about me. It’s about the sacrifice my parents made early in life to get us to the position we are in today.

Ironically, Giannis, who is 6-foot-11, barely played hoop. He wanted to be like his father and play football. But he was introduced to basketball through his older brother, who was approached by a coach to try out for a local team. Being the little brother, he wanted to follow. Also, the air conditioning was the icing on the cake.

« First of all, it was a covered short, » he said, surprisingly. « I played football outside… so I was like, ‘Oh, the indoor gym, there’s air conditioning, I’m fine. you know. But at first I’m like, ‘Man, I’m not going to do any sport with my hands’, you know, because I always play football with my feet.

The 6ft 11in star’s first sport was football, but he fell in love with basketball – and court conditioning – after following his older brother.
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He tried but quit acting, choosing instead to join his mother in selling wares on the streets. But then his brother began to excel in the sport, he decided to try again.

« Then I started to fall in love with the game. And then I realized I could be good at it. And then when I saw my parents’ journey [gone on], the sacrifices they made, how dedicated they were… I was like, ‘I’m going to make it.’ Like, ‘I’m going to sleep in the gym…I’m not going to eat. I really don’t care’… I wanted so badly to support my little brothers, my parents, myself.

He was then 13 years old and found himself in a true love affair with the game.

« I’m obsessed with basketball, » he said.

But he added a caveat: « I’m going to be totally honest with you. I don’t watch basketball. I get too tense. I sleep, drink, eat and wake up to basketball… It’s getting too much.

The disconnect is understandable, as he now has other, more important interests. Giannis is the father of two boys, which I think gives him permission to use his dad’s jokes freely. And during our conversation, he added to his repertoire, riffing on Father’s Day gifts.

“I always get socks and underwear…a book on how can I be a good dad. You know, at least give me a T-shirt or something,” he said with a laugh.

Then he offered me a joke: « What’s brown and sticky? » Answer: “A stick”.

I don’t see Giannis getting a Netflix comedy special anytime soon, but his corny jokes are all part of his charm. He’s a beast on the court and a cheerful, endearing human on the hardwood.

And I think her story has a lot to teach us about gratitude.

Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan iconoclast Fab Five, which rocked college basketball in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before becoming a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for « NBA Countdown » and « Get Up, » and co-host of « Jalen & Jacoby. » He produced « The Fab Five » for ESPN’s « 30 for 30 » series, is the bestselling author of « Got To Give the People What They Want, » a fashion designer, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership. Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.


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