The Scintillating Story of an Immigrant: Milwaukee Bucks Star Player Giannis Antetokounmpo

On July 20, the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns, winning the 2021 NBA Championship. Giannis Antetokounmpo became the sixth player in the NBA Final History to score 50 points, leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the win. He won the NBA Finals “Most Valuable Player” award; currently, his two brothers also play in the NBA.

Giannis’ Immigration Journey

Giannis was born in December 1994 in Athens, Greece, to Nigerian immigrant parents. His parents had moved to Greece in search of better work opportunities. Like most other immigrant families there, his parents faced threats of deportation to Nigeria and had to survive against anti-immigrant attitudes in Greece.

Not having any legal status, Giannis’ parents had to struggle to maintain steady employment. They sold consumer goods, like watches and hats, to make ends meet. When he turned 13, there was a dramatic shift in the family’s fortune. Spiros Velliniatis, a coach in the Greek amateur basketball leagues, discovered Giannis and his brothers. Spiros was determined to train them.

Coach Spiros offered Giannis’ parents better employment opportunities in exchange for the opportunity to train him and his brothers full-time. Giannis and his brothers improved exponentially by starting their training at a young age and combining persistent hard work with natural gifts. In no time, Giannis became the most sought-after basketball talent in Greece. All the major leagues in the world flocked to the country to see the star in action.

Giannis’s Statelessness

Giannis’ popularity almost hit a roadblock due to his immigration status. Unlike the United States and many other countries, Greece does not offer birthright citizenship. Greece requires at least one parent to be a Greek citizen for the child to gain Greek citizenship. Unfortunately, Giannis – who did not have papers from Greece or Nigeria – was considered stateless. Being born in Greece and living there all his life did not change anything.

Giannis’ statelessness would have prevented him from traveling to New York for the NBA draft. Attempting to secure a Nigerian passport would have taken time. Fortunately, the Greek government offered him citizenship just before the NBA draft, so he stepped onto the world stage as a Greek citizen.

Birthright Citizenship

Birthright citizenship was established in the U.S. Constitution by the Fourteenth Amendment. Giannis’ turbulent journey towards acquiring Greek citizenship highlights the positives of this aspect of the U.S. immigration laws. The primary principle behind this is to ensure that children born to immigrant parents do not have to be burdened by their parents’ decisions.

Giannis and The Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks franchise was worth $300 million before Giannis joined the team. Today, the entire team is work $1.6 billion. The surge of new stars, primarily from diverse backgrounds, has augmented the team’s value. Giannis is the most prominent international player, but the team is filled with international talent. The 2020-2021 season, its seventh consecutive season of 100+ players, had an international player on all its roster. The players included 17 Canadians and record-tying 14 Africans.

To learn more about this blog post or if you have any other immigration concerns, please feel free to contact me at or (484) 544-0022.

Posted in: Citizenship |
Tags: birthright citizenship, international migration, status

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