ATHENS, Greece—National Basketball Association (NBA) star Giannis Antetokounmpo was in Greece for a meeting with the country’s prime minister Thursday and a special ceremony to bestow Greek citizenship on his mother Veronica and younger brother Alex.
Antetokounmpo, who led the Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA championship in July, attended the ceremony at the official residence of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
The 26-year-old Antetokounmpo was born in Athens, the son of Nigerian immigrants. He was granted Greek citizenship in 2013, allowing him to travel to the United States and join the Bucks later that year.
“We always felt Greek, but now we have an official stamp and we are happy,” Antetokounmpo told reporters after the ceremony. “Alex and my mom are Greek citizens now.”
Antetokounmpo also traveled to Greece in August with his brother Thanasis, carrying the Larry O’Brien NBA championship trophy. He took the trophy to the ancient Acropolis in Athens to celebrate with members of his family.
One month after leading the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA title in half a century, Antetokounmpo teamed up with the city’s other major pro sports franchise by joining the Milwaukee Brewers’ ownership group.
“Man, this is unbelievable,” Antetokounmpo said Friday at a news conference. “This is a dream come true for a kid from Sepolia, Athens, Greece, born from immigrant parents. I could have never imagined I would be in this position.”
Antetokounmpo modeled a Brewers jersey with No. 34, the same number he wears on the basketball court. Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio joked that he wondered whether president of baseball operations David Stearns might want to try out the 6-foot-11 forward at first base.
Attanasio and Antetokounmpo said they finalized this agreement in May. Antetokounmpo said he and the team kept it quiet at the time because they didn’t want to distract the Bucks’ playoff run and the early part of the Brewers’ season.
Attanasio said Antetokounmpo is the first new individual investor who has been added to the Brewers ownership group since Attanasio purchased controlling interest of the franchise in 2005.
Antetokounmpo said he started thinking about getting involved in ownership of a pro sports franchise last year while he was in the NBA playoff bubble at Walt Disney World. Antetokounmpo, who is from Greece, said his team first discussed the possibility of buying a European soccer club.
But the two-time NBA MVP said he wanted to team up with the Brewers to show his support to the city of Milwaukee.
“Milwaukee made me who I am today,” said Antetokounmpo, who signed a supermax contract extension with the Bucks in December. “It made me a better person. This is basically my home. I’ve become a father here. I’ve become a leader here. I’ve become a champion here, and I want to be involved. I want to be involved in the community as much as possible. I know Milwaukee invested a lot in me, and I want to invest a lot of me back into the city of Milwaukee.”
Antetokounmpo knows the city very well. But admitted that he still has plenty to learn about the ame of baseball.
“Obviously growing up in Europe, there’s not a lot of baseball over there,” he said. “I can tell you when I was introduced to baseball. I was 18. It was the first day I came to Milwaukee. I came to a game. But I know Christian Yelich. I know he’s a great player.”
The Brewers sure know Antetokoumpo, though.
Attanasio said about 20 Brewers players were watching from a Fiserv Forum suite when Antetokounmpo scored 50 points in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to clinch the Bucks’ first championship since 1971.
“We’re trying to have some of that good karma that Giannis and his teammates created to rub off on us,” Attanasio said.
The Brewers have never won a World Series and last won a pennant way back in 1981, but they entered Friday with an 8 ½-game lead in the NL Central as they chase their fourth consecutive playoff berth.
Antetokounmpo can talk to the Brewers players about the benefits that come from winning a title.
“It’s hard to get it done,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s hard to get there. But once you accomplish that, it’s the best feeling ever. It’s the best feeling ever. You always remember what it took to get there. And you create this bond with your teammates for the rest of your life. It’s an addictive feeling.”
The two-time NBA MVP isn’t the only notable Wisconsin athlete with an investment in another of the state’s pro franchises. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a minority ownership stake in the Bucks.
Image courtesy of AP