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"We Have Always Been Greeks," Antetokounmpo Says in Visit to Presidential Mansion

Αssociated Press

In this photo provided by the Presidency of Hellenic Republic Press Office, Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou,second right, poses for a photo with NBA Champion of the Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo, right, his mother Veronica, second left, and his brother Alex Emeka, at the Presidential palace in Athens, Greece, Friday, Sept. 17, 2021. (Theodore Manolopoulos/Presidency of Hellenic Republic via AP)

ATHENS -- In a highly symbolic meeting, President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou on Friday received NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo, his mother Veronica and his younger brother Alex in the gardens of the presidential mansion, a day after the ceremony granting them honorary Greek citizenship that was held at the Maximos Mansion, in the presence of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

After thanking the president for the honour, Antetokounmpo congratulated her on achieving the highest office of the Greek state, saying it was a historic decision that carves a new course. He noted that his family have always felt like Greeks, as they attended Greek school and knew the Greek language and culture, and that the ceremony on Thursday had simply put an official seal on this.

"We have always been Greeks and always considered Greece our home," he said, adding that he brings his sons and his girlfriend to Greece on holiday, while the US is where he has his job and professional obligations.

President Sakellaropoulou said he was an example for young children and that to have one's picture up in the rooms of primary school children was both a burden and something that one earned not only by being an athlete but through one's ethics and personal qualities.

"This is something that someone gets from their home and naturally cultivates as they grow. The love of country and family, your contribution to those in need, these are very important things and do you great honour. I hope you continue, wherever you are, because your life is now shaped in America, but you also often come to Greece," Sakellaropoulou said.

She congratulated Antetokounmpo's mother for all she has achieved and said she was rightly proud of her children, while saying that she was very pleased to have signed the decree granting them citizenship, adding: "You were Greeks and you have proved this as a family."

The president also asked about the career of Antetokounmpo's younger brother, Alex, who is also a professional basketball player and who played for a year in Spain, while the family informed her that four of the five Antetokounmpo brothers were involved in basketball and the fifth, Francis, was interested in music.