Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo detailed his journey to the NBA and how he was discovered while playing basketball in Greece during a recent documentary.
Titled “Finding Giannis,” the 30-minute special aired Saturday on TNT prior to the network’s All-Star weekend coverage. Antetokounmpo, along with agents Giorgos Panou and Alex Saratsis, reminisced about making it to the league and shared stories about how it almost didn’t happen.
He said he was 16 when he was approached by a scout and was told “a year and a half from now you’re going to get drafted and play in the NBA.” The forward said others “believed in me more than I believed in myself.”
Antetokounmpo revealed he almost didn’t make it to the United States because he didn’t want to leave his family behind. His family experienced issues obtaining a visa, and they had been declined twice. They received a visa on the third attempt, which Saratsis described as “a very important moment” in Antetokounmpo’s journey.
“He didn’t know if his family was going to come,” explained Panou, the agent who essentially discovered Giannis in Greece. “Back here, we were trying to apply for an American visa. We were stressed because the law says if you’re declined three times, you’re done.”
Saratsis detailed the initial calls he received from the NBA, and the moment he realized Antetokounmpo had the potential of being a star.
“Come 2013, I started to get a lot of phone calls from NBA teams saying, ‘This is your kid, right? You’ve got something there. You’ve really got to start paying attention.'” Saratsis said. “After about five or six phone calls, the next day I was on the plane. I went to Greece and I watched him play and I went to my partner (Panou) and said you have something there. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but at least in the immediate future you have something that can be good.”
Antetokounmpo explained that he initially declined to attend the draft in 2013. His family wasn’t able to fly to the United States at that point, but his father and Saratsis urged him to go.
“I didn’t want to leave my family back because I ride and die for my family. My dad told me, ‘Look, you’ve got to go; this might be good for us.’ I said, ‘OK, let’s do this,'” Antetokounmpo explained.
Once Antetokounmpo made it into the league after the Bucks selected him with the 15th overall pick, he said his turning point came during the 2015-16 season. He recalled scoring 27 points in his debut during his third season.
“I talked to (Saratsis) and told him, ‘I can do this every night,'” Antetokounmpo said.
One strong theme throughout the documentary was Antetokounmpo’s connection to his family. The 24-year-old star explained, “What I am today is because of my family. For me, family is everything.”
You can watch the full documentary here: