Life writes the best and the strangest stories, and one of them is right before you. It rarely happens that someone's life turns for 180 degrees, and to become a millionaire and one of the best NBA players from a simple poor migrant. That is precisely the story about the Greek basketball player who comes from Nigeria, Giannis Antetokounmpo (24.211) member of Milwaukee Bucks. He was born in Athens, as one of the five children of migrants from Nigeria, who had no work and no chance to get a normal life.
Little Giannis was wondering the streets of Athens with three of his brothers, trying to make some money for food. He often stole sandwiches from other children so he could eat. He had two choices, eighter sport or the street.
Everything changed in 1997 when he was 13 years old and when Spiros Velianitis saw him who took him and his brothers to the camp to teach them basketball. It wasn't easy because Giannis liked football and has already trained it before. Spiros convinced some people to secure finances for the family and Giannis started training with him. Ten years later, he signed a 100 million dollars contract in the NBA.
Antetokounmpo now makes 22 million dollars per season, and that number will reach 27.5 million by 2020. Of course, Spirou didn't give a single dollar, that is the destiny of the coach who creates.
This story will make you think.
- My name is Spiros Velianitis. I grew up in Athens, I have a very interesting story. My mother is German, my father a Greek. I went to America when I was 16 years old to college Cape Coral to accomplish my dreams. I failed, I returned to Greece and I had a very tough time recovering.
- I realized that Greece is not prepared for the problem of migrants. I saw a lot of children of migrants who are great talents, and they lose their lives or they become criminals on the streets of Athens. That is when I reached an idea to help those children through some basketball program - Velianitis said to Telegraf.
He explained how he managed to find Giannis Antetokounmpo.
- When I saw Giannis in 1997, he wasn't playing basketball, he was playing football. I had enough problems convincing him because I had to find work for his father and to find a sponsor for the family. Lukas Karakusis was the one who gave a part of the money. I took him to club Filathlitikos in Athens to train. In the beginning, we trained together, in the first two years, and then he went to coach Grigoris Melasa, and then to Takis Ivas, who was his last coach prior to NBA.
- I felt when I saw him that he can be NBA player. I asked if people were blind not to notice this talent. I managed to convince people to financially help the 13-year-old boy, and that has never happened before.
- There are no doubts about it, Giannis has a character for survival, he was born to survive, you could see that in his eyes. He was a champion even before me, I just taught him the basketball and created some ambitions. He will do anything to survive. Whoever worked with children knows that it is the most important thing. He has potential, and now he is in a crucial part of his career. He has to be careful. He has to wait three years before going to the next level. He has to make right decisions in his career - Velianitis said.
He said that there is still a lot of talents in his camp.
- I have a lot of children who are talented in my camp. There are few who are on the national team. You have children who score 300 hoops each day, who walk up to three kilometers each day and they carry the ball because we don't have any support from the city of Athens or any other municipality. There are 7, 8 kids who can reach NBA, but that is impossible without support. The thing with Giannis happened because of support. That is why I mentioned Karakusis and Ivas, because hey supported the project.
When he looks at the child he sees two things.
- That is the combination, I have a friend who used to speak about the characters of the players, especially Yugoslav players. I believed more in physical capabilities. Now, I am looking at both things, character, and physical, but it is not easy recognizing talent.
In the end, he said that they have no contact with the NBA star from Greece.
- That is a classic question. We have no contact with him, as soon as he signed the 100 million dollar contract he hasn't called. That's life, believe that your "basketball son" will return one day - Spiros said and explains why is he in Belgrade.
- Dejan Srzic Suzla invited me, he is a great friend of mine who has a camp here. He called me many times, but I couldn't come so far, and here I am. I learned a lot of things from him, even that famous move above the head Giannis is doing when he shots on entry - Greek trainer said.
(Telegraf.co.uk / D. Stojmenovic)