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The emergence of Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the more fascinating came-from-nothing type of stories. Giannis’s journey of reaching NBA stardom was a tough row to hoe, but he is now enjoying the fruits of his labor.

Coming into the league, Giannis was a 6’9” raw prospect who possessed uncommon physical gifts with his lanky frame, large hands, and 7-foot-3 wingspan. No one could anticipate that he will hit another growth spurt, shooting up to 6-foot-11 within a year of getting drafted by the Bucks. He improved year after year, reaching a level of being discussed as the best player in the NBA, with an MVP award to show for it.

Although being a globally recognizable NBA superstar, Antetokounmpo stayed humble. He had a tough upbringing, being one of four brothers raised by Nigerian parents who migrated to Greece. He and his brothers used to sell goods on the street to help their parents out, and that’s the part of his life that helps to keep him grounded.

He didn’t have a lot growing up, which made him more appreciative of things that aren’t as luxurious as being a part of the NBA. Like shoes.

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“I recall him running around dunking barefoot on the practice courts because he didn’t have a shoe contract yet. I was a one-and-done guy with tennis shoes. Nike would send me a boatload of signature shoes, and when I was done, I used to always donate them. Some guys used to throw four or five game-used shoes in the trash. Giannis would pick them up; he’d go get them. That meant everything to him. He had that desire and hunger to be better than everyone else, and I’ve seen it. You can’t teach that. At the same time, he was able to keep police himself to stay dialed into his goals and what he wants to get out of this game.”

Caron Butler, UPROXX

Giannis doesn’t have to run barefoot on the practice courts anymore. He became the first foreign-born NBA player with a Nike signature shoe, with his Nike Air Zoom Freak 1 becoming the largest initial signature launch in Nike Basketball history. The deal is estimated at around $9 million per year, with more to come following the release of his first signature shoe.

With his amazing on-court performances, Greek Freak’s advertising value has exploded. It made the whole Nike footwear and endorsement deal possible, and it unlocked an enormous potential for financial benefits outside of NBA hardwoods.

Regardless of it all, Giannis remains humble. He remains appreciative of times he was selling CD’s on the street, or times he was running barefoot in the gym, hoping to one day having his basketball shoes.

Google Zoom Freak 1, you’ll see that’s been taken care of.

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