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Giannis Antetokounmpo on Growing up in Greece with Strict Nigerian Parents

2021 70th NBA All-Star Game
Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of Team LeBron celebrates a three-point basket during the 70th NBA All-Star Game as part of 2021 NBA All-Star Weekend on March 7, 2021, at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Born and raised in Greece, NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo has been dubbed ‘The Greek Freak,’ but he doesn’t consider himself part of the country’s culture and heritage. 

Speaking to The Undefeated, Giannis dishes about his Greek heritage and Nigerian parents. The history-making athlete says his upbringing was more rooted in the Nigerian culture and heritage because of his parents — and they were quite strict. 

“Obviously, a lot of people don’t know where I’m from. A lot of people think my mom or my dad are from Greece, but no. Both of my parents are black. Both of my parents are Nigerian…I grew up in a Nigerian home. Obviously, I was born in Greece and went to school in Greece. But at the end of the day when I go home, there is no Greek culture. It’s straight-up

Per The Undefeated:

Charles and Veronica Adetokunbo moved from Lagos to Greece in 1991 in hopes of a better future for themselves and their family after struggling to find employment. The Adetokunbos’ eldest son, Francis, was left behind in Lagos to be raised by his grandparents. Charles Adetokunbo worked as a handyman and wife Veronica as a baby sitter in their struggle to make ends meet for their family, which was the only black one in the area, according to The New York Times. The Adetokunbos had four more sons, all born in Greece, including Giannis on Dec. 6, 1994. (Antetokounmpo became Giannis’ surname after it was spelled that way on his Greek passport instead of his birth name of Adetokunbo.)

Veronica spoke in the Nigerian language of Igbo, which is one of the four official Nigerian languages.

“I can understand it a little bit. I can count. It’s not like I’m fluent,” Antetokounmpo said of Igbo. “It’s not like I can go back home to Nigeria and they can understand what I am saying. It’s kind of funny.

“Both my parents are from Nigeria. But Nigeria is like 250 dialects, so my mom and my dad don’t speak the same language.”

Sadly, Charles Adetokunbo died in 2017 at age of 54 after a heart attack.

“I want to see where my family comes from, where my mom was raised, see my family, see where my dad was raised. That is very important. I hope my kids can do the same thing for me,” Antetokounmpo said. “Obviously, I am going to have kids that are going to grow up in the U.S., but one day I hope they can go back [to Greece] and visit and see where I grew up, the playground I was playing.”

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Comment by John Smith on April 14, 2022 at 2:18am
Comment by Damien on July 25, 2021 at 7:02am

Basketball stopped being fascinating for me. Time Shakil O'Neill has passed. Modern basketball contains more politics than a really beautiful game. That's why I began to look for something new for myself in soccer. And I found what I wanted. I see a good team game. Sometimes I even make bets - If you have free time, you can see the statistics of games for Euro 2020. It was actually beautiful.

Comment by vaughn mitchell on July 24, 2021 at 6:04pm
Too bad he did tell of all the hate and racism he received growing up in Greece.

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