When Did Giannis Antetokounmpo Start Playing Basketball?
Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is still just 28 years old. Although he and the top-seeded Bucks suffered a shocking first-round exit this season to the No. 8 Miami Heat, Antetokounmpo has already made a name for himself as one of the greatest players in the game today.
When a young player competes so effortlessly, it’s easy to theorize that they were born holding a basketball. However, the two-time MVP hasn’t been playing as long as one might think. Born on Dec. 6, 1994, the Greek Freak is the third of five boys. His brothers Thanasis, Kostas, and Alex Antetokounmpo have also played in the NBA.
Giannis Antetokounmpo first played basketball in 2008
In a 2013 interview with DraftExpress, Antetokounmpo revealed that he hadn’t started playing basketball until 2008. Antetokounmpo was born in Athens, Greece, the son of immigrants from Nigeria. The family grew up poor, with Giannis doing his part to hawk items in the streets to help bring in some cash.
Basketball eventually became what the Antetokounmpo brothers did best. They worked hard at their craft and eventually made their way up the European basketball ladder. Giannis went from picking up his first ball to playing for Greece’s top youth teams in just a few years, eventually making it to the top Euro teams.
In 2013, Antetokounmpo, a skinny player with very little experience, was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the No. 15 pick in the NBA Draft. It was a gamble for Milwaukee that eventually paid off.
Danny Ainge, former President of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics, passed on Antetokounmpo, instead drafting Kelly Olynyk at No. 13. Ainge later explained his reasoning for bypassing Antetokounmpo.
“We all liked him,” Ainge said, according to NESN. “All of us had seen him. I think I saw him in maybe January, but by the time that he was drafted that same year, he was, I think, two or three inches taller and maybe 10 or 15 pounds heavier. And he was even bigger the year after Milwaukee drafted him. But he was just a really skinny kid that had no outside game, and he looked like a kid that just needed a long time to develop.”
Antetokounmpo has become arguably the best player in the NBA
Patience has paid off for the Milwaukee Bucks, who suffered through some disastrous seasons as Giannis began his NBA career. As a rookie, Antetokounmpo averaged 6.8 points in 24.6 minutes, mostly off the bench.
It wasn’t until his fourth year in the NBA that the Greek Freak blossomed. He made the first of his seven straight All-Star appearances that season when he put up 22.9 points and 8.8 rebounds in 80 games. During the 2016-17 season, he was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player.
In the 2018-19 and 2019-2020 seasons, he was named the league’s best player, securing consecutive MVPs. Antetokounmpo also guided the Bucks to a championship in 2021.
With Antetokounmpo leading the way, the Bucks have been relevant again. This season, Antetokounmpo had his best statistical year, averaging a career-high 31.1 points. He also pulled down 11.8 rebounds. He finished in the top three in the MVP voting.
Antetokounmpo is s sure-fire Hall of Famer and will go down as one of the best to ever play the game. Not bad for a guy who only picked up a basketball 15 years ago.