BROOKLYN – The Greek community of New York and the tri-state area embraced Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo once again. With Greek flags waving throughout Barclays Center and with applause and cheering for Giannis’ baskets it seemed like the Nets were playing... away from home, as the Greeks watched the "Greek Freak" give them a full show (29 points, 12 rebounds), in the Buck's 117-97 win.
For the sixth consecutive year, the presence of the Antetokounmpos and the Greek community celebrated "Greek Night" hosted by Greek-American Dimitris Pristouris and the Super League Athletic Academy, with the Academy's young children welcoming the basketball players during their entry in high-five line, and also staying for the game, along with the majority of the Greeks, to see Giannis up close.
Due to the limited time left after the game, Giannis and Thanasis did not come out, like they had in previous years, to greet and take photos with the fans. However, everyone knows how much they mean to the Greek community and all Hellenes Abroad, while Thanasis Antetokounmpo sent his own message to the fans in an interview with The National Herald in the Barclays Center locker room.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who is a friend of the Bucks and well-known fan of Giannis Antetokounmpo, as well as Gianna Angelopoulou, who is visiting the U.S., were among those present at the game.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo, who also plays for the Bucks, expressed his satisfaction with the presence of so many Greeks at the Barclays Center. At the end of the game, the international forward and brother of the "Greek Freak" graciously spoke with The National Herald, thanking the Greek community for their support.
"I am very happy overall, I saw a lot of Greeks, I saw a lot of support. I am also doubly happy because we won," he said, characteristically avoiding any discussion of a championship.
"We'll see at the end where we reach. The point is to make it to the end, to concentrate and play game by game," Thanasis said.
Concerning his brother and himself playing on the Greek National team in the pre-Olympic tournament, Thanasis Antetokounmpo noted that the only "open window" for a so-called conflict is the possible gates dates coinciding with the NBA Finals. He did however make it clear that the intention of both brothers is to strengthen the Greek National team.
"The conflict can arise if we go to the end and the playoffs coincide with the dates. In general, everybody knows very well that I personally am always ready and I want to represent Greece in any event," Thanasis said.
When asked if he had spoken with Coach Rick Pitino on the National team issue, he said that no discussion has yet taken place.
According to Super League Athletic Academy Director Dimitris Pristouris, the tickets available through the Academy reached 800, with an estimated more than 1,000 members of the Greek community attending the Greek Night.
"I see that this year we are over 1000 people and every year it grows, everyone has a good time, and it is a wonderful night. Giannis is now all about Greece, he's the biggest advertisement for us, it's an honor that he wears the Greek colors. It's the biggest brand name,” Pristouris told TNH, while his wife, Voula Kavalieratou Pristouris, noted the rise in attendance.
"It's the sixth year we're here and about 800 people came with the Super League Athletic Academy, we've come to support Giannis and Thanasis, this year is a double joy. It's a great event, lots of kids are here and year after year there is more interest," she said.
For his part, Thrasos Petros was particularly pleased with the presence of the Greeks, as well as the fact that, through this process, they could see Giannis in person.
"Every year we come to see Giannis, from his first year, we are here, we met him and we are very proud of him and Greece. Though Giannis did not come out to meet us after the game, we had a great time,” he said.
Finally, a friend of the Antetokounmpo brothers, Nikos Okekouoyen, described Giannis and Thanasis as "role models and people with morals."
"For Greece, it's something unreal what Giannis and his family have achieved. They are my friends, I look at them and admire them all, from the biggest to the smallest, the morals they have, and what good people they are. Giannis has set an example, I am here and I see my dream, thanks to Giannis,” he said.
The Bucks dominated in their 117-97 victory. In fact, the Bucks finished the first half with an 18-7 run, 57-42. The lead quickly reached 20 points (50-70) and everyone was just waiting for the final result. Milwaukee reached 38-6 with the Greek ace scoring 29 points, with 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal, Middleton 20 points, and Brooke Lopez 12 points. For the Nets (18-23) Irving had 17 points, Claxton 14 points, and Prince 13 points.
Milwaukee has won 16 of the last 19 meetings.