NBA feature: Giannis Antetokounmpo on his Nigerian roots

epa08642701 Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo of Greece (R) in action against Miami Heat forward Jae Crowder (C) and Miami Heat guard Andre Iguodala (L) during the first half of the NBA basketball semifinal Eastern Conference playoff game two between the Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Florida, USA, 02 September 2020. EPA/ERIK S. LESSER SHUTTERSTOCK OUT

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While the Milwaukee Bucks have exited the playoffs after a series defeat to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals, star man Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to make headlines after another exceptional season.

And the 25-year-old forward is very much a son of Africa, as he recently told The Undefeated, a sports website operated by ESPN which focuses on the intersections of race, sports, culture and more.

Victoria University

“Obviously, a lot of people don’t know where I’m from,” Antetokounmpo explained. “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.”

Charles and Veronica Adetokunbo moved from Lagos to Greece in 1991, with their eldest son, Francis, left behind in Lagos to be raised by his grandparents. The Adetokunbos had four more sons, all born in Greece, including Giannis in December 1994. Antetokounmpo became Giannis’ surname after it was spelled that way on his Greek passport instead of his birth name of Adetokunbo. He may have grown up in Greece, but his home culture was very much a Nigerian one.

“I grew up in a Nigerian home,” Antetokounmpo said. “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. It’s straight-up Nigerian culture. It’s about discipline, it’s about respecting your elders, having morals.”

Of the Igbo language his mother spoke to him as a child, the basketball star adds: “I can understand it a little bit. I can count. It’s not like I’m fluent. It’s not like I can go back home to Nigeria and they can understand what I am saying. It’s kind of funny. Both my parents are from Nigeria. But Nigeria is like 250 dialects, so my mom and my dad don’t speak the same language.”

Antetokounmpo also explained that he would love to visit his parents’ home country in the near future.

“I want to see where my family comes from, where my mom was raised, see my family, see where my dad was raised. That is very important. I hope my kids can do the same thing for me,” he said. “Obviously, I am going to have kids that are going to grow up in the U.S., but one day I hope they can go back [to Greece] and visit and see where I grew up, the playground I was playing.”

He even possesses a Nigerian passport: “It’s important. It’s part of who I am. Both of my parents are Nigerian. They wanted me to get it. I wanted to have it, so I got it.”

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