Despite having made top marks under the flag of Greece in recent years, United States of America’s National Baseball Association (NBA) star, Giannis Antetokounmpo is now highlighting his Nigerian roots, and says he is proud of his origins in Africa’s most populous nation.
Antetokounmpo is ready to revert to his original family name, Adetokunbo, as he wants to give due recognition to his parents and the country they hail from.
Indeed, Antetokounmpo has been on fire this season with Milwaukee Bucks, making waves as never before, and the in-form star, who has a younger brother in the spotlight as well, believes now is the time to hype the Nigerian in him.
His story goes back a whole 20 years ago, when Charles and Veronica Adetokunbo moved from Lagos to Greece in 1991, seeking a better future for themselves and family after failing to get employment.
The Adetokunbos’ eldest son, Francis, was left behind in Lagos to be raised by his grandparents.
On their arrival in Greece, Charles Adetokunbo worked as a handyman and wife Veronica as a baby sitter in their struggle to make ends meet for their family, which was the only black one in the area.
The Adetokunbos had four more sons, all born in Greece, including Giannis on December 6, 1994.
‘Antetokounmpo’ became Giannis’ surname, after it was coined that way on his Greek passport, instead of Adetokunbo.
Antetokounmpo grew up in Greece, learning and adopting Greek culture and language, going to school, mixing with the locals and started playing basketball at seven.
However, Veronica Adetokunbo spoke to her sons in her own native language, Igbo, which is one of the four official Nigerian languages and is also spoken in Equatorial Guinea.
Although their father, Charles, is from the equally vast Yoruba region of Nigeria, with the language also spoken in Benin Republic, Giannis and his brothers followed their mother’s tongue, alongside Greek.
He is now grateful to his mother for helping him keep abreast with his roots, by learning and living the Nigerian way, even while growing up in Greece, where he was born.
Antetokounmpo took his mind back with nostalgia and declared with glee: “Obviously, a lot of people don’t know where I’m from.
“A lot of people think my mom or my dad are from Greece, but no. Both of my parents are black. Both of my parents are Nigerian.
“Obviously, I was born in Greece and went to school in Greece. But at the end of the day when I go home, there is no Greek culture.
“I grew up in a Nigerian home. It’s straight-up Nigerian culture. It’s about discipline, it’s about respecting your elders, having morals.”