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Giannis Antetokounmpo Gives Emotional Speech After Winning NBA MVP Award
by Tasos Kokkinidis*
Milwaukee Bucks big man Giannis Antetokounmpo capped off an incredible year by being named MVP of the 2018-19 NBA season during the league’s awards show. Leading up to the event, the 24-year-old had confidently told his family he wouldn’t be emotional if he were to win the MVP. Instead, he’d speak from the heart — he didn’t prepare a speech — about what the achievement meant to him while thanking everyone possible. Antetokounmpo did just that and his words were heavy with gratitude. But in a memorable, moving six minutes, he broke down in tears multiple times, drawing applause and support from the audience. “I want to thank God for putting me in this amazing position that I’m in today,” he said. “Everything I do, I do it through Him and I’m extremely blessed… I want to thank my team. First of all, I want to thank my teammates. It takes more than one person to win 60 games. Every time I walked into the locker room I saw my teammates, they were ready to go, to fight. They were ready to go to war with me, to lace up their shoes. They went out there and they gave 100%.”
“I want to thank the coaching staff for teaching us, pushing us every day, every single day believing in us, teaching us what it takes to win… I want to thank the city of Milwaukee, I want to thank my countries Greece and Nigeria for always supporting me,” the basketball great concluded.
Antetokounmpo’s speech reached an emotional crescendo when he began speaking about his family. Parents Charles and Veronica immigrated from Nigeria, settling in the Sepolia neighborhood of Athens. Giannis shared sneakers with his older brother Thanasis and often slept in the local gym where he trained.
Giannis and Thanasis sold sunglasses and trinkets to help put food on the table, supplementing the earnings of their parents, who supplied plenty of love to make up for what they didn’t have in money.
Antetokounmpo tearfully expressed his love for his brothers, but became even more emotional when discussing his father, who passed away suddenly on Sept. 29, 2017, following a heart attack at the age of 53. “Two years ago I had the goal in my head that I’m going to be the best player in the league, I’m going to do whatever it takes to help my team win and I’m going to win the MVP,” he stated. “Every day that I step on the floor I always think about my dad and that motivates me and it pushes me to play harder and move forward. Even when my body’s sore, even when I don’t feel like playing, I’m always going to show up and I’m always going to do the right thing,” he told the enraptured audience at the awards.
His mother, Veronica, stood proudly close to the stage as she listened to her son call her his hero. “I want to thank my amazing Mom,” he said. “She’s my hero… As a little kid, you don’t see the future, right? If you have a good parent, your parent sees the future for you. She always saw the future in us, she always believed in us, she was always there for us. She’s the foundation of this family. You’re my true hero. You’re my true hero.”
“I want to thank the front office, the ownership for believing (in) me when I was 18 years old back in Greece,” Antetokounmpo said, repeating the line twice so that the audience would understand as he fought back tears. “They allowed me to lead this team and trust me.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo made Greeks worldwide proud for another reason as well: at the ceremony he sported a blue blazer with images of the Parthenon on the inside while accepting his amazing award. Giorgos Papadogamvros of Athens is the Greek fashion designer behind these cool blazers and he says every time Giannis comes to Greece, he orders jackets with Ancient Greek images. The “Greek Freak” stood proudly for the cameras, holding his outstanding award in one hand and his blazer open with the other, revealing the Acropolis, which is close to Giannis’ heart as he was born and raised in the Greek Capital.
* This article was first published in usa.greekreporter.com
Additional info was taking from greekcitytimes.com