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Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Herculean Effort Leads To Olympics

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the leader just about everywhere he goes.

As a two-time NBA MVP, 2020 Defensive Player of the Year, and 2021 NBA Champion, it may come with the territory. Nonetheless, whether it’s the Milwaukee Bucks or Greek national team, all eyes are on him. One of the most uniquely gifted seven-footers, his elite explosiveness makes him seem like all he has to do is run and jump to dominate. However, Antetokounmpo’s two-end playmaking comes down to far more than his physical attributes. He’s also a high level processor, which has allowed him to play a point-forward role.

His gifts have allowed him to average 29.0 points, 11.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 1.2 blocks, and 1.1 steals per game over the past seven NBA seasons. They’ve also led to him being one of the most recognizable players in all of basketball.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Herculean Effort Leads To Olympics

On Sunday, Antetokounmpo led Greece’s men’s national basketball team to a momentous victory over Croatia in the final round of the 2024 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Recording 23 points, eight rebounds, one steal, and one block in 28 minutes, his Herculean effort was rewarded with MVP honors. As expected, he was also named to the All-Star 5 for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Greece.

After the game, Antetokounmpo took to Twitter, saying: “I have never (cheated) the game…”

This will be Antetokounmpo’s first time in the Olympics.

Going Against the Grain

It’s significant that Antetokounmpo is making his Olympic run with Greece.

This is partially because the Greek national basketball team hasn’t qualified for the Olympics since 2008. However, there’s also a sociocultural aspect at play. Players who aren’t naturalized American citizens look at playing for Team USA as an honor. Yet, this is a phenomenon that’s seemingly exclusive to the African diaspora.

This has led to stars like Cameroonian center Joel Embiid shunning their home country’s national team.

Embiid isn’t the only star to make that decision, with Jamaican-born Patrick Ewing and Nigerian-born Hakeem Olajuwon also playing for Team USA. However, the Jamaican men’s national basketball team has never qualified for Olympics.

Olajuwon played for the Nigerian junior national team, which led to problems when he tried to play for Team USA. Yet, the Nigerian national team didn’t qualify for an Olympic tournament until 2012. With that being said, if Olajuwon could’ve played for both teams, he may have.

In any case, Antetokounmpo has gone against the grain. He hasn’t taken what many would consider an easier and potentially less fulfilling path. By choosing to put Greece’s Olympic hopes on his back, he’s demonstrating an increasingly rare type of patriotism.

It’s A Bit Different For Giannis

Notably, Antetokounmpo is of Nigerian descent. In fact, Greece didn’t grant him or his family citizenship until he reached adult age. Indeed, Antetokounmpo and his family —like many African immigrants —were treated like second-class citizens in Greece. With that being said, Antetokounmpo’s not exactly paying homage to his roots. However, as he was raised in Greece from birth, he’s truly both Greek and Nigerian.

As a result, Antetokounmpo’s less like the Embiids, Olajuwons, and Ewings of the world. He’s more like Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo, who was born in New Jersey to a Nigerian father and African-American mother. Notably, Adebayo will play for Team USA in the Paris Olympics.


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