MILWAUKEE, WI – While millions of Americans tuned into the CBS Sunday night news show 60 Minutes to watch Anderson Cooper’s interview with Stormy Daniels, the former porn star who alleges to have had sex with Donald Trump in 2006, the second feature story was more appropriate to the air date: March 25, Greek Independence Day.
Because in that second segment, Cooper’s 60 Minutes colleague Steve Kroft interviewed Giannis “the Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo, the Greek-born 23-year-old NBA superstar.
As Kroft pointed out, what makes Antetokounmpo’s story so compelling is not only rare athleticism in a 6’11, 225-pound body that allows him to be effective in all basketball positions (point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center), or that he is only one of the league’s best players and at such a young age, he probably hasn’t even come close to reaching his peak, but how he literally went from rags to riches.
Described as “an outcast in his own country” – his parents three years earlier left their native Nigeria to settle in Athens. Without immigration papers, they lived in the shadows, selling sunglasses and DVDs on the streets of Athens. “I was the best” salesman, a smiling Antetokounmpo told Kroft. “I am very persistent.”
Kroft explained how it was Alex Saratsis, a Chicago agent born in Greece, who had seen Antetokounmpo play in a low-level Greek league and signed him as a client. The dingy gym in which he played, which could hold about 40 people, had about 20 from the NBA, who had flown to Athens to watch this “uncut diamond.”
Soon enough, his dream came true: he was drafted as the 15th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, by the Milwaukee Bucks. “ I knew nothing about Milwaukee, or the NBA,” he told 60 Minutes. But soon enough, Milwaukee knew him. And the rest of the league knew him. And now, he is treated like a king not only in his native Greece when he returns, will earn $22 million this year (a drop in the bucket for the hundreds of millions pumped into Milwaukee’s economy as a result of his presence), and is greeted by exuberant Greek-Americans in every NBA arena he visits, often joining them in singing the Greek National Anthem.
His modesty and likability have rendered him extremely popular not only among the fans, but among his fellow players. And, as 60 Minutes reported, the player who once shared sneakers with his brother, Thanassis (who played for the Knicks and now plays for Panathinaikos), he will now have a sneaker (created by Nike) named after him.