Giannis Antetokounmpo might be an NBA star today, and his two brothers might be making their marks, too. But this doesn’t put them above the law in Greece. Although the Antetokounmpos were budding NBA players, they had to fulfill an obligation that every Greek citizen must complete. As a result, they each had an offseason that was not so average.
Giannis Antetokounmpo in the military
A 7-foot-tall NBA star-in-the-making going overseas to join the army sounds like the plot of a bad comedy, but it’s exactly what Giannis and his brothers had to do. It was their legal obligation to the Greek government as part of their citizenship, says Bleacher Report. Most Greek citizens must serve for nine months, but those who work out of the country can get exemptions.
At the time, Giannis was with the Bucks, and his brother Thanasis was making his name with the Knicks’ developmental team. Had the Greek national team qualified for the Olympics, they wouldn’t have done the military service that year. But with a free offseason, it only made sense for the brothers to get it out of the way.
Giannis has always prided himself on being Greek. He doesn’t shy away from his “Greek Freak” moniker and often discusses what it was like to be a Greek player in the NBA. Giannis took pride in his citizenship. It was also something that came to be later than people expected.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s path to citizenship
As the children of Nigerian immigrants, the Antetokounmpo brothers were considered foreigners in Greece. So they were always at risk of being deported despite their Greek upbringing. According to the New York Times, the path to residency and citizenship in Greece was historically difficult. They had to wait until the same time Giannis was drafted to gain it.
Traveling to New York as a Greek immigrant was far easier than traveling to New York as a Nigerian immigrant. This hard path to citizenship may be what makes Giannis so proud of it. He provided a story for Greek immigrants to look up to, although his path isn’t one that the average immigrant can pull off. Nikos Odubitan of Generation 2.0 explained the caution behind this:
“Of course, we are all proud of what happened,” Odubitan said, according to The New York Times. “But this is not what it takes to be a Greek citizen. We have engineers, doctors, all kinds of professionals, and the Greek state does not recognize them. Why does it take being a basketball talent?”
Regardless of the hurdles and criticisms that the brothers did not get the same treatment of other immigrants, they’re grateful they were able to conquer a difficult system. As such, Giannis has discussed how important it is for him to set a positive example for kids from similar backgrounds.
The Antetokounmpo brothers’ international play
Giannis and Thanasis give back to the country where they grew up by participating in their international competitions. In a year when most of the big names in professional basketball wouldn’t play internationally, the brothers proudly teamed up on the Greek National Team.
Giannis and Thanasis, along with younger brother Kostas, display their Greek pride and continue to offer an inspiring story for those who look up to them back home. Whether serving the country in the military or through basketball, Greeks can be proud knowing the brothers represent them.
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