Why Giannis decided to leave the NBA during his rookie year (and who saved his career)
FAMILY

Why Giannis decided to leave the NBA during his rookie year (and who saved his career)

One thing that can’t be overstated about Giannis Antetokounmpo is how important his family is to him. Being a foreigner in his own country for a long time, barely getting Greek citizenship, struggling to eat every day, dealing with racism in Greece – the only thing that was a constant in his life was the love and support of his family. The Antetokounmpo’s have been through a lot.

We don’t know for sure, but the fact Giannis’ mom told him she really loves living in Milwaukee is probably one of the main reasons he re-signed with the Bucks in December. The most important decision of his career and his family’s sentiment was a major factor. That’s how important family is to Giannis. Mirin Fader, the author of the perfectly timed Giannis biography ‘Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA MVP,’ revealed there was a moment even more crucial than Giannis resigning that revolved around his family.

I think the thing that surprised me, that I learned most was how quickly and certain Giannis was to quit the NBA and go home to Greece his rookie year. He was extremely lonely. That was one of the biggest reveals that I found out. 

Mirin Fader, The Press Box

Mirin said Alex, the youngest brother, shared how difficult that first year was for Giannis. While everyone was enjoying his tweets about smoothies, Antetokounmpo was sure that would be his only season in the NBA. Giannis’ entire life, no matter how hard it was, his family was there. Suddenly, he was a 19-year-old kid who didn’t speak English that well, with his entire support system halfway around the world. 

Deep inside, he was so lonely. He told his family and his agents, ‘Look, if you can’t come over here, I’m going home.’ What if they didn’t get the proper visas to come to America? They had gotten denied twice. It was very, very hard. It went very, very high, it’s rumored, to the Secretary of State at the time. 

Mirin Fader, The Press Box

Fader talked to several government officials who didn’t confirm nor deny it went all the way to the Secretary of State, but they did confirm getting those visas was extremely hard. It’s insane to think that all this wouldn’t have happened if a high-ranking politician didn’t approve a Nigerian family from Greece to stay in Milwaukee while their son played for the local NBA team. 

How often do you have someone from Africa who spent their lives in the Mediterranean Greece wanting to live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin? That should be reason enough to invite them in. The Antetokounmpos are a pillar of the community, and Milwaukee is that much better to have them. To think we would’ve missed out on a two-time MVP, Finals MVP, the third guy to win MVP, Finals MVP, and DPOY after MJ and Hakeem – all hanging in the balance of a bureaucrat stamping a visa application. 

P.S. If you were wondering, the Secretary of State in 2011 was Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton. Republicans in Milwaukee now have to deal with this fact for the rest of their lives.