Giannis Antetokounmpo’s other name

Screen shot 2014-01-02 at 10.27.21 AM
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Without a doubt, Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best thing to happen to the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013 (and probably over a timeframe much longer than that.)  He is candid, ever-smiling and engaging. He routinely makes plays that only a handful of NBA players could make because of his stunning combination of size and physical grace.

To wit: the 19-year-old has made 28-of-28 dunk attempts (100%) this season — an average of more than one per game — a number that should only rise now that he is playing starter’s minutes.

Best of all, the Bucks were able to snag him with a middle-of-the-pack first-round pick because other teams questioned his NBA potential due to a brief organized playing history in Greece.

So to this point, the only real hiccup in his rookie season has been when folks have tried to figure out how to pronounce his name (For the record, it’s YAHN-iss ah-deh-toh-KOON-boh). And really, it shouldn’t be that hard.  As soon as the silent ‘G’ is pointed out, his first name should be a done deal, and his last name isn’t any more complicated than a flight attendant recalling a frequent traveler’s favorite drink: Tomato juice, no?”.

Ah-deh-toh-KOON-boh, ah-deh-toh-KOON-boh — it’s really not that hard.  But Giannis has another name too.

His parents, Charles and Veronica, moved from Nigeria to Athens in 1991, leaving behind their firstborn son with his grandparents.  The pair emigrated in search of a better future, but Greece fell on extremely hard times and scraping by in Athens soon became just as hard or harder than making a living in Lagos.

While living as stateless residents in a new homeland, four more sons would follow — Thanasis, Giannis, Kostas, and Alex. To remember their collective past, Veronica gave each son both a Greek and a Nigerian name.  The name she chose for Giannis was Ougko (OO-goh).

Every time Giannis arrives in an NBA city for the first time, there’s an overdone fuss about the length of his name.  And again, it’s not that hard. Two syllabus: YAHN-iss. Five syllables: ah-deh-toh-KOON-boh.  All told, it’s shorter and flows off the tongue easier than ‘Michael Carter-Williams’.

There are contrived attempts at a nickname — e.g., ‘The Greek Freak’ or ‘The Alphabet’ — that are unflattering if they aren’t creeping on dehumanizing.

But he has another name that reflects his beautiful complicated heritage.  He even wrote down the Nigerian name in angular letters that look more Greek than anything else.


Categories: Feelgoodery

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  1. I dont think he minds “The Greek Freak” at all – Giannis identifies as Greek, and he’s nominated for Greece for rep duties, and will play any time any place they ask for him, but if he wasnt a superlative sports talent then he’d still be an undocumented illegal immigrant. Oh, and those Golden Dawn nazis can go die in a fire – the Greek Freak’s Greek.

    Similarly, ‘The Alphabet’ is a great nickname for a player who does everything from Assists to Drunks to Rebounds to Zzzz he’s shooting lights out …

      • “Freak” isn’t offensive in this context, and hardly ever is when referring to an athlete. It is often used with a negative connotation, but the word itself is neutral in intent. A “freak” is simply an oddity, anomaly, abnormailty, etc. He’s not like everyone else, and on the court, that’s exactly what you want to be. You could argue that almost any nickname is offensive. The “manimal” would suggest that he is not fully human, but on the court it means that he has a highly aggressive game, as if he has an “animal instinct.” I also do not think people believe that the “Sandman” actually goes into children’s rooms and sprinkles dust on their face. Nicknames are earned, and it often has to do with where they come from and their playing style. Giannis has a very unique body structure and can play many positions, which is not common. He is also Greek, so the name Greek Freak makes perfect sense. I even hear people refer to players like Lebron as “freaks of nature” because their ability to play the game is simply uncanny and unmatched. In this context, it is a compliment. I do not think people will find the “Normal Greek” very intimidating anyways.

  2. I never liked the “Greek Freak” nickname either, I’ve always refereed to him as Giannis. I’ve also liked “The Alphabet” but keeping it simply “Giannis” is best imo.

  3. I’m really tired of discussing his name. Its a name. I really like discussing his game. Let’s stick to that from now on, okay? Chad Ford being asked (during his latest online chat) who he would select in the top three if he the 2013 Draft was re-done today goes as follows…. 1. Antetokounmpo 2. Oladipo 3.Carter-Williams Finally the Bucks got some fortunate luck.

    • “Freak” describes a (fantasy basketball) statistical juggernaut similar to the context, “Beast” or “beast-mode” etc.

      Typically dominant or double-digit in 6 of the 7 following stats: pts/dunks/FG%/rebs/asts/stls/blks.

      The distinction is that the physical tools of the player are abnormally long/large (Rudy Gobert) instead of being muscularly massive (DeMarcus Cousins).

      Fantasy All-Freak Team

      Michael Carter Williams
      Giannis Antetokounmpo
      John Henson
      Anthony Davis
      Andre Drummond

  4. I love Ougko for another reason:

    it’ll be easy for the crowd to chant when he goes 40-10-10 a la Steph Curry on somebody.




  5. I really like Giannis by itself. I am hoping that he becomes great enough to be like other superstars that go by one name (e.g. Lebron, Kobe, Shaq).