Giannis Antetokounmpo never dreamed that he would even be mentioned in the same sentence as legendary Greek basketball player Nikos Galis, but the young Milwaukee Bucks’ phenom told starting5online that he hopes to meet Galis soon to seek some advice.
“As a basketball player I have a lot of basketball questions I could ask him,” Antetokounmpo said. “Just about his experiences on the court; how he used to play; how he saw things on court.”
Galis is revered in Greece for his illustrious career with Aris which lifted the profile of Greek basketball from relative obscurity to global status. Last May, both Giannis and his brother Thanasis appeared on Greek radio and spoke very highly of Galis’ influence on the rise of Hellenic basketball. The Antetokounmpos invited him to be their guest at an exhibition game the brothers had organised at Nikos Galis Hall in Thessaloniki.
“I invited him to the game, unfortunately he couldn’t make it,” Antetokounmpo said. “I’ve never met him in person, but he’s one of the greatest Greek basketball players ever and it would be great to meet him one day.”
Galis was the figure that inspired a generation of kids to take up basketball in Greece, but given Antetokounmpo’s rapid ascent to the NBA’s elite, it’s just beginning to dawn on him that he, too, is inspiring a new generation of Greek hoopers.
“A lot of Greek kids see me as a role model [but] I feel like Nick Galis is really up there,” he said. “I’ve got a long way to go to get to Nikos Galis’ level.”
While Galis never played professionally in America, Antetokounmpo is quickly rising up the ranks of Greek basketball’s greatest players. Even at the tender age of 22, his exploits with the Milwaukee Bucks are garnering national attention with the American media. At the start of January, he became the first Greek athlete to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine.
Antetokounmpo is trying to keep an even keel about his new-found attention.
“It’s a great magazine [but] I get more excited with basketball,” he said. “I knew that all that stuff was gonna come when your team’s winning and you’re doing good stuff on the court, it’s a big honour to be on the cover. My main focus is to try and stay focused and do whatever it takes to try and get some wins here.”
Next month could see Antetokounmpo reach another first if he gets selected to the East squad for the NBA’s All-Star game in New Orleans. After the second-round of voting from fans was completed, Antetokounmpo was second in the front-court category, behind only LeBron James.
“It’s a big honor to be in the top five [voting] and to [potentially] start the game,” he said. “No matter what happens, we still have a goal here [in Milwaukee] as a team and we still want to accomplish that goal.”
Antetokounmpo said he has Thanasis to thank as the older brother has been campaigning for people to vote Giannis.
“He’s my campaign manager,” joked Antetokounmpo. “If I was running for President he’d be running my campaign. I’d definitely win with Thanasis.”