ATHENS – He’s the pride of Greece – not all Greeks – shown when a mural of NBA MVP and Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, a naturalized citizen born in Greece to Nigerian parents – was vandalized with his face scratched out and Nazi insignia added.
The graffiti artwork is in the neighborhood of Palaio Faliro and was defaced, with a swastika and the Nazi SS logo painted on his arm and while no one claimed responsibility, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn has slurred him before.
The painting was done via Athens’ Pictures and Dreams initiative with the original artwork is available at EuroHoops, reported the site The Spun, noting that in 2017 a mural of him painted on a basketball court in the neighborhood of Sepolia where he grew up was also vandalized and defaced.
The damage was undone and this spring some more inspiring messages added to it. Earlier this month, in wake of the death of George Floyd, the quote “We can’t breathe” and #BlackLivesMatter were added to the court.
In 2013, when he was still a raw talent and chosen by the Bucks in the NBA draft, Antetokounmpo was targeted by Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos who during a TV interview asked: “If you give a chimpanzee in the zoo a banana and a flag, is he Greek?"
When he was picked, Antetokounmpo – who speaks fluent Greek – crossed himself in the Greek Orthodox fashion and waved a Greek flag while hugging his family members during the event at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.
Golden Dawn fell out of favor in Greece when Michaloliakos, its entire contingent of lawmakers and dozens of members were charged with running and being in a criminal gang, attacking immigrants and one accused of the murder of anti-Fascist hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas, but the trial has been going for almost four years.
The party was ousted in the July 7, 2019 snap elections, narrowly missing the 3 percent threshold needed to get back into Parliament and has gone mostly underground and stayed silent and out of sight.
While the party denies being neo-Nazi, mountains of evidence produced in the trial showed frequent references to Nazi methodology and some members employing a Heil Hitler style of salute sometimes used.
Then-Premier and the New Democracy leader at the time, Antonis Samaras, said he felt "great emotion" meeting Antetokounmpo and his parents later.
"I thank you for honoring our national colours," he said. "I hope you drive them crazy with your slam-dunks … All of Greece is so excited for you,” he added, although critics said without basketball Antetokounmpo wouldn’t have gotten citizenship.