Nigerian-born Greek NBA player Giannis Antetokounmpo made Forbes’ list of the top 10 highest-paid athletes in 2022 at just 28 years old.
Antetokounmpo began his professional basketball career in 2011 with the Filathlitikos senior men’s team in the Greek B Basket League. Since then, he has made a name for himself as one of the most decorated players in NBA history.
About Giannis: Giannis was born in Sepolia, a migrant-dominated neighbourhood in Athens. His parents, Charles and Veronica, migrated from Lagos, Nigeria to Athens before he was born. Interestingly, the couple hadn’t intended to settle in Greece. Instead, they first moved to Germany because Charles was a semi-pro soccer player and he had an opportunity to play there. Unfortunately, he had a devastating, career-ending injury. So, they ended up going to Greece.
Sepia was a tough place to grow up because it was very hard for Charles and Veronica to find steady employment. They were undocumented as were their kids because, in Greece, they don’t offer birthright citizenship. So although Giannis and his brothers Thanasis, the oldest, Kostas, and Alex were all born there, they weren’t considered Greek.
So the parents would then bring the kids to sell items on the street or at upscale beaches and try to do whatever they could to put food on the table. And oftentimes they just wouldn’t eat. Giannis’s first meal of the day might come at 11 PM some days. So, it was tough.
How he started: At 13- years old, Giannis was out playing with his brothers, when a Greek man Spiros Velliniatis, sees them. Spiros says he felt God talking to him when he saw Giannis. He saw the limbs of this young boy running and saw tremendous athleticism, calls him Mozart.
He steers Giannis and his brothers to this club called Filathlitikos, which is a medium-sized club in the suburb of Zografou, and they play in the second division. It’s not the best. It’s the A2 division. But Spiros says, “Look, if you play basketball, I can help your family with money. Try it out, see what you think.”
Giannis’ Success: In 2017, he received the Most Improved Player award and has since been selected as an All-Star six times, including being selected as an All-Star captain in 2019 and 2020. In 2019 and 2022, he won consecutive NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, making him just the third player in NBA history to win two MVPs before turning 26, alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James.
Antetokounmpo’s impressive performance led him to sign a five-year, $228-million supermax extension with the Milwaukee Bucks in December 2020. The contract, along with endorsement deals with Nike, 2K Sports, and Kraken, contributed to his $80.9 million in earnings in 2022. Antetokounmpo is the only member of the top ten who is still in his 20s, as a Brazilian football superstar.
Giannis’ Earnings: Forbes’ earnings estimates include both on-field and off-field earnings. The on-field earnings for this list include all prize money, salaries, and bonuses earned between May 1, 2021, and May 1, 2022. Off-field earnings figures are estimates of sponsorship deals, appearance fees, memorabilia, and licensing income for the 12 months leading up to May 1, 2022, as well as cash returns from any businesses operated by the athlete, based on conversations with industry insiders. He has also signed a licensing deal with NFT platform NFTSTAR and added WhatsApp and Google’s Pixel 6 phone to his endorsement stable.
Antetokounmpo has made investments in some ventures. He was among the investors in the $165-million funding round for the timepiece resale platform WatchBox announced in November.
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Achievements
NBA Champion: 2021
NBA Most Valuable Player: 2019, 2020
NBA All-Star: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
NBA Defensive Player of the Year: 2020
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Charity Work
In 2019, Giannis along with his brothers set up the AntetokounBros Academy to help several kids get into basketball. Giannis grew up in a difficult environment and looks to provide kids who need support to play basketball the opportunity to explore their abilities through the academy.
In 2020, Giannis, along with his teammates, donated US$100,000 to “After School Matters”, a Chicago-based NGO that provides after-school education to about 19,000 students across the city.
Giannis decided to pay arena workers salaries worth US$100,000 when the COVID pandemic first hit in March 2020.
Giannis Net worth: As of the time of writing Giannis Antetokounmpo’s net worth, according to Forbes rounds up to $80.9 million.