Athens Went Nuts for Its Returning NBA Star Giannis Antetokounmpo Last Week

The Greek Freak hosted an impromptu street match that was attended by about half the teenagers of Athens.

by Panagiotis Maidis, Words by Pavlos Toubekis
19 May 2015, 10:00am

This article originally appeared onVICE Greece

Last week, rising Greek NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo – or Greek Freak as he's known in America – took to social media to announce that he'd found time in his hectic NBA schedule to fly home and host an impromptu basketball game in his old neighbourhood in Athens.

I was fairly certain it was a joke but I couldn't bare the idea of writing it off and later looking like a complete tool for missing it, so I made my way down to the neighbourhood of Sepolia.

Already from about a half mile away, you could hear the rumbling wall of applause. Obviously, it hadn't been a joke: the Milwaukee Bucks Giannis and his brother Thanasis — who plays for the Westchester Knicks — were both there. Well, them and several thousand Athenians, who were all collectively losing their shit over the fact they had a chance to watch their hometown heroes play with their old friends and playmates.

Bleachers, telephone poles, curbs: If it was within 400 metres from the court and more than an inch above ground level, it was overflowing with young people trying to catch a glimpse of the game.

When the game ended, Giannis signed a few basketballs and threw them out into the crowd. Which, thoughtful as it was, could've easily instigated a riot seeing how eager people were to grab them. Some of those lucky enough to get their hands on a ball, were members of Generation 2.0 — a group promoting the rights of second generation Greek citizens, like the Antetokounmpo brothers.

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Obviously NBA stars don't grow on trees, so the excitement generated by the Antetokounmpos' visit was anticipated. But for a country where far-right party Golden Dawn is in parliament despite the fact that half of its MPs are currently standing trial for belonging to a criminal organisation, that visit represented a kind of hope that for almost a decade now has been well beyond our wildest dreams.