“Greek Freak Week” with the Antentokounmpo Family in New York
by Chris Salboudis
Heads up! June 2017 has proven to be a very exciting time for the Greek American community in New York! Kicking off the summer, Cosmos FM celebrated their 30th Anniversary at Terrace on the Park, honoring the Antetokounmpo family and sharing their touching story with all those present and with Earnie Anastos directing the evening festivities as Master of Ceremonies.
While on the one hand the focus of the evening was on the accomplishments of new and historical basketball legends, everyone in attendance could also feel – through every smile, greeting and story shared at various points throughout the event – that celebrating the accomplishments of these individuals, and of Cosmos FM’s landmark 30th Anniversary, was about so much more: The determination to succeed, to be a valuable part of the community, to highlight excellence.
This occasion also marked the 30th Anniversary of the National Basketball Team of Greece’s win the European Cup in 1987. Panagiotis Fasoulas and Mixalis Kakiouzis were members of the original team that won Greece’s first-ever international team championship and establishing a fantastic legacy for many generations to come.
It’s with this in mind that, Panos Satzoglou, Ioanna Giannopoulos and the administrative team at Cosmos FM, sought to collaborate with leaders in the NYC Greek community, including Archbishop Demetrios, the Consul General of Greece, and countless others, to celebrate what is now known as Greek Freak Week.
The evening was chalk full of amazing speeches, video tributes and awards to various individuals embodying a spirit of personal excellence and Greek pride, including renowned athletes Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Mixalis Kakiouzis and Panagiotis Fasoulas, recipients of the Hellenic Spirit Award, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, recipient of the Hellenic Legacy Award. Their parents Veronica and Charles Antetokounmpo, were also especially honored as recipients of the Hellenic Heritage Award for their remarkable journey and determination.
Taso Pardalis, Event Co-Chair of “Greek Freak Week” and Partner at Pardalis & Nohavicka LLC., shared his own comments on the importance of the evening with NEO magazine. In his opening address to the evening reception, Taso reminded us that Cosmos FM has provided a unique community service to the Greek and Greek American community for the past 30 years, and that the station has been a part of his own life since childhood. After the event, he shared an exclusive commentary: “The daytime ‘Feel Greek’ Family Basketball event was an extreme success. Kids and parents alike went wild to meet Giannis, Thanasis and their family as well as Fasoulas and Kakiouzis. The players all took photos and signed jerseys and balls for the children. From the minute we met the Antetokounmpo family in Milwaukee I knew we were going to have a very heartfelt and sentimental event. The Antetokounmpo family emigrated from Nigeria to Greece for a better opportunity and Greece gave them just that. As Charles Antetokounmpo said they were poor, but they were able to survive and, most importantly, to educate their family. Then, like all Hellenes here in the US once did, they came to America to reach their peak potential. Like our families, their rags to riches story although significantly different and more modern maintains one parallel theme: The love and support for Greece. Giannis’ speech invoked tears from his family and the crowd alike.”
Consul of Greece in New York Manos Koubarakis also offered a personal statement, congratulating both Cosmos FM and the Antetokounmpo family on their success. “The informational and civil work of Cosmos FM brings us closer to the Greek civilization and language. … I believe with great certainty that Cosmos FM will continue to flourish and grow for many more years to come…. I would also like to express my warmest congratulations to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is a proud representation of mother Greece in the United States. He is a great example, both as a person and as an athlete, for our young and developing generation. With his ethos, humility, work ethic, and dignity, Giannis Antetokounmpo bestows upon us pride each opportunity we are able to admire him, whether it is inside or outside the stadium.”
In true Greek form, Giannis Antetokounmpo begins by thanking God for his life’s path as it unfolded, fraught with difficulties. “God knew that we could cope with them as a family…. We thank God every time we do something…. I want to thank my older brother, Thanasis, the best big brother and a hidden hero. Every time we hear ‘Giannis! Giannis! Giannis!’ it’s actually Thanasis keeping the family together…. The greatest honor is to be the best big brother!”
Giannis also thanks his parents, Veronica and Charles, who endured obvious hardships to make as many opportunities as possible to their children and are clearly an inspiration not only to their children, but to families around the world who struggle to provide for their children and who motivate and lead by example. “We know who we are, we know what we’ve been through, and today I promise you that my brothers and I will always do our best to be the best role models for kids in Greece and for the future of basketball.”
Thanasis Antetokounmpo also acknowledged the challenges his family faced and shared the key to their success in his acceptance speech, which he refers to as “F.O.E.” – Family Over Everything – a phrase which in itself embodies the values of our community spirit and shows that beyond the medals and fame it’s the heart of gold, positive drive and that epic level of faith in God and family that the Antetokounmpo family hold most dear. It is undoubtedly this mindset and the continued determination of the greater Greek and Greek American community at large, that should remain in our hearts as we work together to support and inspire future generations to reach for their goals no matter what the odds.