The Untold Truth Of Giannis Antetokounmpo

NBA player Giannis Antetokounmpo is more than what meets the eye, which says a lot given the 6-foot-11 forward for the Milwaukee Bucks has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, 40-inch vertical, and 13 letters in his last name. Born and raised in Athens to Nigerian immigrants, the "Greek Freak," as he's been affectionately named, not only has an interesting background that's a mash-up of his Nigerian heritage (his mom, Veronica, is of the Igbo tribe while his late father, Charles, is Yoruba) against his Greek upbringing but, as a professional basketball player, Giannis has amassed milestones players twice his tenure have yet to accomplish (via The Washington Post).

Giannis is the first player in NBA history to finish a regular season in the top 20 in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. In addition, Giannis has two MVP awards under the belt, taking the honor home in 2019 and 2020 — a feat that made him the only player, along with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James, to do so before turning 26. Lastly, Mr. Antetokounmpo is only the third player to win both NBA Defensive Player of the Year and an MVP in the same year, joining the great Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.

A mouthful, no doubt. But believe it or not, there's more to unravel when it comes to the man who has seemingly done it all. So here's a deep dive into just what those things are. 

Kobe Bryant fueled his MVP and Championship run

When the late great Kobe Bryant retired from the game of basketball, there was no question he was at peace. The five-time champion left it all on the floor, lending him to seamlessly transition into a mentorship role, taking players like Devin Booker and Kyrie Irving, along with many others, under his wing. A good example of this was back in 2017 when the Black Mamba publicly challenged players to specific milestones he felt they could achieve, like calling on Dallas Mavericks point guard Isaiah Thomas to make the All-NBA First team. 

While just an ambitious 24-year-old in his sixth season at the time, Giannis Antetokounmpo, didn't wait for Kobe to issue him a challenge but, instead, reached out for one on Twitter. "This started almost like a joke at first," Antetokounmpo said in a press conference after winning his first NBA Finals. "It was, I think, a Nike ad, and he was sending a challenge to players ... I was like, 'Yeah, let me just shoot my shot.'" Bryant gave a short, direct response: MVP. "At first, I was like joking. I didn't even think he was going to respond to me," Antetokounmpo said. "But when he did, he made me believe. I'm like, 'Kobe Bryant thinks I can do this? I can play in the high level and lead my team and win MVP?'

As history would have it, Antetokounmpo went on to win his first MVP in the following '18-'19 NBA season (via

Giannis Antetokounmpo and his brother served in the Greek military

Giannis and his brother Thanasis Antetokounmpo served in the Greek military. Yup, that's right, according to Greek law: "Greek males between the ages of 19 and 45 are required by Greek law to perform military service." So they did, even while they both were in the NBA (Giannis was with the Bucks, who drafted him in 2013, and Thanasis, with the NBA D-League's Westchester Knicks franchise).

Luckily, according to Essentially Sports, they did not have to serve the mandatory three months like other citizens due to their NBA status and, instead, "trained with the army for a few days" before leaving to go back to their respective teams.

The few days the two athletes spent with the Greek army did not have much influence in their lives, but, ironically, the pair exude traits of discipline and stick-to-itiveness that not all players have. For example, you'll rarely see Giannis or Thanasis take a playoff, and it is they who are the first to dive onto the hardwood for a loose ball — the same type of "stay ready" principles the military instills. While they're not in the army now, should there be an all-out war and the Anteokounmpos choose to fight for Greece, there's probably not anyone who would be willing to face those super soldiers in combat.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, the foodie

Giannis Antetokounmpo has earned a lot of titles in his day, and you can call him a lot of things  — "Greek Freak," Most Improved Player, and Dominant are just a few —  but did you know the Nigerian-Greek star is also somewhat of a foodie? Since coming over to America, Antetokounmpo hasn't been shy about the new cuisine he comes across (no matter how mind-blowing the discovery may be to everyday U.S. citizens), documenting and providing commentary on his most beloved discoveries.

Like back in his rookie year when he tried a smoothie for the first time. "I just taste for the first time a [smoothie]..MAN GOD BLESS AMERICA," he tweeted, followed by a grinning emoji. Antetokounmpo had similar sentiments when he first came across a corn dog: "Just tried a corndog for the first time...Man God Bless America!" he tweeted, followed by two laughing emojis. It doesn't take much to impress Antetokounmpo, who, in 2018, shared with his followers, "Just had my first sip of American Red Kool Aid while watching the game. It's extremely tasty, America stay blessed," after trying the childhood popular beverage for the first time. After a while, Antetokounmpo started getting his critique on. "While having my first pedicure in two years, I tried my first bag of Funyuns. They [were] good but I'll stick to American Cool Ranch Doritos," he tweeted, making sure to provide pictures for context. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo, the food connoisseur — now you know.  

Giannis Antetokounmpo really loves chicken

There's one dish in particular — shockingly above the Funyans and Kool-Aid — that Giannis Antetokounmpo favors, and that's chicken nuggets. Now, before you shake your head, agreeing that you, too, have an affinity for the oh-so-scrumptious small, breaded, deep-fried pieces of deboned chicken meat, understand that it might not be on the same level as this superstar basketball player moonlighting as a food blogger.  

After winning the NBA Finals and beating the Phoenix Suns, where, in the close-out game six Antetokounmpo scored a mind-blowing 50 points, the champ didn't go to Ruth's Chris or Nobu; he didn't hit up the Soho House or an expensive Las Vegas penthouse spot; instead, that same night, Mr. Antetokounmpo went to Chick-fil-A to celebrate. 

Taking to Instagram Live to document his first post-championship meal, Antetokounmpo, accompanied by his partner Mariah Danae Riddlesprigger as well as the Finals MVP and Larry O'Brien trophy, went to the drive-through and ordered a 50-piece. That's right, a 50-piece. "I stole the trophy from the organization," he tells Instagram (via Twitter). "I don't know the consequences; do I get traded?" he said, before proceeding to order "not 51, not 49," nuggets from the drive through. While the order amount may seem ridiculous (and petty), it could genuinely be on par for the super athlete who is twice the size of the average male. Either way, the champ loves his chicken. 

He has the third-largest hands of any NBA player

Hands matter in basketball. To put this into perspective, there's an infamous viral spill of ESPN sports analyst, Stephen A. Smith, critiquing former No. 1 overall pick, Kwame Brown and how bad he was for the Los Angeles Lakers after they traded him "to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of a blockbuster deal for Pau Gasol" (via The Spun). Along with calling him "a bonafide scrub" and declaring that the Lakers should celebrate his departure, Smith gave a detailed reason why: "The man cannot play the game of basketball. He has small hands; he can't catch the ball, he's got bad feet, he can't really move even though he's mobile, doesn't really know what he's doing, doesn't have a post move that he or he puts to memory that he can do two times in a row. He has no game whatsoever," the First Take host said. 

While harsh, the basketball analyst is right — you need hands to play the game. The 15 largest hand sizes in NBA history, for example, are littered with some of the league's greatest. Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest to ever do it, for example, makes the list at number eight and Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain sits at number 10. This is good news for Giannis Antetokounmpo, who cracks the top three, which are Boban Marjanovic (10.75/12 inches), Shaquille O'Neal (10.25/12 inches), then Antetokounmpo (9.85/12 inches), in that order, per How They Play.

Giannis Antetokounmpo trademarked 'The Greek Freak'

Ever since Giannis Antetokounmpo was dubbed the "Greek Freak" due to his freakishly athletic build and on-court abilities, he's done nothing but embrace the term. Nowadays, you can catch Antetokounmpo adding variations of the nickname at the end of hashtags and referring to himself as "The Freak" on social media. They say, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," and Antetokounpo has taken that saying to heart when it comes to his nickname, as he's done nothing but double-down on the title as his status, profile, and superstardom have risen. The Greek athlete has even found a way to incorporate the name on the court, writing it out as "GREEK FR34K" to include his number 34 jersey number.

The basketball star has even gotten the name trademarked. According to intellectual property site Gerben, the two-time MVP "obtained a federal trademark registration for 'GREEK FREAK' in 2014," which "covers the use of the name on backpacks and clothing items that include shirts, hooded sweatshirts, jackets, jerseys, socks and warm up suits." Shrewd business thinking, being that the move allowed him to use the nickname for his first Nike signature sneaker — the Nike Zoom Freak 1, making him just the 22nd Nike signature athlete in the company history and the first born and raised outside of the United States.  Additionally, Antetokounmpo would go on to file a trademark application for "GREEK FREAK" for entertainment services. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo is worth a lot

As one could probably assume about an all-star NBA player with a shoe deal, Giannis Antetokounmpo has a good amount of loot. After winning back-to-back MVPs, the Greek Freak decided to move quickly when it came to determining his fate with the Milwaukee Bucks, electing to sign his five-year, $228 million supermax extension way ahead of the December 21, 2020 deadline. According to Forbes, Antetokounmpo's contract extension was one of the biggest in NBA history, guaranteeing "a grand total of $256 million over the next six seasons in Milwaukee," which averages out to an annual salary of $45 million. 

Then there's the shoe deal with Nike. After originally signing a $25,000 sneaker contract with Nike in 2014, the Greek basketball phenom re-upped with the shoe powerhouse in 2017, earning him, according to Forbes, $9 million in his first year with the option of his shoe line. Similarly, Antetokounmpo inked a deal with Disney to create a live-action film about his life, giving him a total net worth estimate of $70 million (via Celebrity Net Worth).

The feat is especially significant, seeing he, along with his older brother, would help his parents make money by selling watches, bags, and sunglasses on the streets of Athens. "Sometimes, our fridge was empty," Antetokounmpo told The New York Times in 2013. "Some days, we didn't sell the stuff and we didn't have money to feed ourselves."

He once had to run to the arena for a game on foot

Yes, Giannis Antetokounmpo is a paid man now with one of the richest NBA contracts in league history, a shoe deal, and other endorsements coming out of the woodworks, but such wasn't always the case. In fact, although the Greek Freak went to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, there was a time when he would still find himself helping out family, much like he did back when he would sell everyday items to ensure food was on the table. One such story that encapsulates this to the letter is the time the NBA star had to run to the arena for a game because he ... well, he lacked cab fare. 

In a profile piece by Sports Illustrated, the story goes that the then-19-year-old rookie took a cab to Western Union so that he could send some money back home. It wasn't until after sending all the money he could back to Athens, however, that he realized he didn't have enough left for cab fare. It was also a game day — so he ran to Fiserv Forum, the multi-purpose arena located in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

But, wait, this heartwarming, hallmark story gets even better: the Bucks star could only get about a mile in before locals recognized and asked if he was the Bucks rookie. After saying yes, they picked him up and dropped him at the arena.

At one point, he did not have a home country

When Giannis Antetokounmpo decided to resign with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2020, he mentioned talking the decision over with his mother, wherein he revealed his feelings about living in the cheese capital of the world. "I talked to my mother, asked her, did she want to move? She said, 'No.' So I said, 'OK, cool. I'm just going to sign the deal then.' But, no, this is the place I want to be," Sky Sports reported. Antetokounmpo went on, "This is my home. This is my city. I want to represent Milwaukee, and I want to do this for the next five years."

The sentiment is sweet not only because it's a brand new place embracing a foreign star, but because Antetokounmpo literally did not have a home at one point. Children of undocumented immigrants in Greece are required to apply for citizenship at age 19, but because Antetokounmpo and his brothers didn't have legal status in either Nigeria or in their new country (their parents immigrated to Greece illegally) they themselves were in no-man's land. 

But in 2013 that all changed for Antetokounmpo who was granted Greek citizenship, allowing him to travel to the United States and join the Bucks his rookie year. "We always felt Greek, but now we have an official stamp and we are happy," Antetokounmpo told reporters after his Mom and younger brother received their citizenship some years after him (via ESPN).

Giannis Antetokounmpo's child, Liam, might be an athlete as well

Giannis Antetokounmpo's son, Liam, could be the second coming of the Greek Freak — Greek Freak 2.0, if you will. While Giannis' side of the little one's genome is well documented — all of his brothers tower of six-feet — Liam's mother, Mariah Riddlesprigger, who is also Giannis' partner, has quite the athletic background as well, making the perfect mix for a potential first rounder in probably any sport the little man chooses. 

For starters, Riddlesprigger is 5-foot-10 so small in stature in her own right. Add the fact that Riddlesprigger is also a former college volleyball player who competed at Rice University with a father who played basketball at Fresno State, and you get a well balanced presence of athletic supremacy coming from both sides of Liam's DNA. Additionally, Riddlespringger has a cerebral feel of sports as well, earning a degree in Sports Management and Sociology before working as an intern for the Sixers and at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas (via NBA).

Liam has more than enough tools and resources to be a six-to-ten figure earner playing sports like his father, and should be receiving offers in no time.  

His father died in September 2017 at the age of 54

If Giannis Antetokounmpo's son Liam Charles ever decided to take the path of his father into the world of sports, he'll be carrying his grandfather with him, whom after he was named and who passed at the age of 54 after a heart attack in 2017 (via GQ). His father's name was Charles Antetokounmpo, a fellow athlete and Nigerian footballer. Being that the Antetokounmpo household was big in size and migrated to a foreign land together, they all were a close-knit group. This was especially the case with Giannis, who, according to Sportskeeda, "revealed in past interviews that his father played a huge role in his training as a child, and that he initially wanted him to become a footballer." 

So, as you can imagine, the passing was extremely hard on Giannis. "I want my father back; no second thought. You can take everything back. I can go back to Sepolia and sell CDs. I don't care," he said following his father's loss, Afroballers reported. 

After leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA Finals, GQ reports that one of the first things Giannis did after the confetti fell was "find a quiet place" to remember his father. "Man, we've come a long way. I wish you were here to see this. Please watch me." he reportedly said. If there is one thing for sure, it's that he made his father proud. 

His eldest brother is a soccer and music star

While Giannis Antetokounmpo's elder brother, Francis Adetokounbo — who is also the only of the five boys to be born in Nigeria — did dabble in semi-professional basketball, he mostly used his athletic skills to forge a professional career in soccer, including stints with Greek clubs AE Sparti and Aittitos Spaton. 

What probably sets Francis out the most, however, is his liking to music. The 33-year-old released his first official single, "Shekosi," in 2020, with an accompanying music video that has a guest star appearance from "La Casa De Papel" actor Darko Peric. "I came here because the Antetokounmpo brother, the oldest one Francis, is shooting his first video clip, music video. And he wants me in the video clip. So Thanasis called me and he said if I want to come," the actor said during an interview with Eurohoops.

A championship trophy is cool, but Giannis isn't scoring a music video with an international actor. 

Giannis wasn't the first Antetokounmpo to win an NBA Championship

If Giannis Antetokounmpo ever needed a humbling, he can look to his oldest brother, Francis Adetokounbo, who is a musician that hangs out with TV stars, as well as his younger brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo, who won a championship before him as a two-way player with the Los Angeles Lakers. Granted, Kostas didn't register a single second or point in the NBA playoffs, he still got a championship ring as part of the roster and, according to Giannis, did not let his brothers forget about it. 

In a Twitter post showing him and Kostas hanging out, Giannis maintains that Kostas was acting like the "big homie," boasting the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy in his face: "He don't even see us anymore, bro. This guy act differently," Giannis says in the post

While all in good fun, maybe something did rub off, as Giannis and Thanasis would go on to win their first ring together the following year