Getting a signature shoe deal has always been one of the biggest points of pride for players in the NBA. The first player to get their own line of shoes was Walt Frazier, who signed a deal with Puma all the way back in 1973. Yet the signature shoe industry really blew up thanks to the runaway success of Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan 1.
At this point, many of the league’s superstars have their own shoe deal, including LeBron James, James Harden, Stephen Curry, and Russell Westbrook. As of last summer, Milwaukee Bucks forward and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was added to that list. If you take a look at Antetokounmpo’s past, you’ll see why a surprisingly touching personal detail from his history makes his signature shoes so special.
Where is Giannis Antetokounmpo from?
Antetokounmpo earned his nickname — the “Greek Freak“— because he grew up in Greece. In that sense, Antetokounmpo is undeniably Greek. Yet both of his parents are African immigrants who moved to Greece from Nigeria. Antetokounmpo refers to his heritage as “Greek-Nigerian.”
That identity meant that Antetokounmpo faced a lot of adversity — and even outright racism — while growing up. Technically speaking, he was not even a Greek citizen until about six years ago, when he was preparing to go to New York City for the NBA draft. Many saw the sudden gift of Greek citizenship as a self-serving gesture to prevent the budding star from being identified as Nigerian.
In other words, once Antetokounmpo’s gifts and pathway to fame were clear, Greece wanted to claim him. Up until then, Antetokounmpo and his family had been considered stateless residents. As a result, they were not eligible for national health care, many jobs, or even access to Greek sports leagues.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s family
He has four brothers: Kostas, Francis, Alexis, and Thanasis. Their parents were both athletes in their younger days. Mother Veronica was a high-jumper, while father Charles played soccer in Nigeria. Tragically, Antetokounmpo’s father passed away unexpectedly due to a heart attack in 2017.
Antetokounmpo’s family have always been important to him, as he made abundantly clear in his tearful summer 2019 MVP acceptance speech. So when Antetokounmpo finally got his signature shoe deal, he decided to pay homage to both his humble background and his enduring love for his family.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s signature shoes
The signature shoe design process tends to be long and involved. As Antetokounmpo himself pointed out, it took a full 18 months to settle on an overall concept for his shoe. While a lot of players focus solely on a shoe’s performance attributes, Antetokounmpo was equally concerned with designing a shoe that reflects his upbringing and family.
Antetokounmpo shared one surprising revelation in that, when he was growing up, he didn’t always have shoes to wear. And he certainly was never privileged enough to buy a pair of new basketball shoes. “I’ve never been to the store, until this day, to buy a basketball shoe,” he said in a video explaining the inspiration behind his shoe design.
Antetokounmpo chose to honor both his brothers and Greece through a special colorway known as All Bros. The colorway takes inspiration from colors favored by all of the Antetokounmpo brothers, while also referencing Antetokounmpo’s basketball camp and charity run that take place in Greece every summer.
But perhaps the most important shoe in his signature collection features a colorway known as Roses, which pays tribute to his father, Charles. The largely white shoe references the white roses that the family laid on Charles’ casket during his funeral. The shoes also feature the names of both Antetokounmpo’s father and mother. The shoes make clear how serious he is when he says that everything he does is for his family.