If you aren’t yet familiar with the story of Milwaukee Bucks star, Giannis Antetokounmpo, his is one that speaks to dedication and the power of a dream. Born in Greece to Nigerian immigrant parents, Antetokounmpo’s family was often threatened with deportation to Nigeria amid growing anti-immigrant attitudes in Greece. It wasn’t until Antetokounmpo turned 13 that things began to look up for his family, after Spiros Velliniatis, a coach in the Greek amateur basketball leagues, took notice of the young player and his brothers and grew determined to train them.
Spiros offered Antetokounmpo’s family better employment opportunities in exchange for the opportunity to train the brothers full-time, which saw their skill level increase dramatically as they learned new skills combined with natural talent. It wasn’t long before Antetokounmpo became the most sought-after basketball talent in Greece, with the major leagues soon calling to get a piece of the star.
It’s a story that reads like a Disney movie, and now it will become one as the NBA star sees his life get the biopic treatment in the form of Rise. Set to depict his incredible journey from being a stateless child of Nigerian immigrants to becoming history’s very first trio of NBA championship title-winning siblings amongst his brothers, fans are already eagerly awaiting the film’s release.
An official synopsis for the film reads: “After emigrating to Greece from Nigeria, Vera and Charles Antetokounmpo struggled to survive and provide for their five children while living under the daily threat of deportation. With their oldest son still in Nigeria with relatives, the couple were desperate to obtain Greek citizenship but found themselves undermined by a system that blocked them at every turn. When they weren’t selling items to tourists on the streets of Athens with the rest of the family, encouraged by their father, the brothers would sneak away to play basketball with a local youth team. Latecomers to the sport, they discovered their great abilities on the basketball court and worked hard to become world-class athletes. With the help of an agent, Giannis entered the NBA draft in 2013 in a long-shot prospect that would change not only his life but the life of his entire family.”
Starring as Giannis is Uche Agada, with Real Agada appearing as Athanasios “Thanasis” Antetokounmpo, Jaden Osimuwa as Kostantinos “Kostas” Antetokounmpo, Elijah Shomanke as Alexandros “Alex” Antetokounmpo, Anthony Abiola as Francis Antetokounmpo, Yetide Badaki as Veronica Antetokounmpo, Dayo Okeniyi as Charles Antetokounmpo, Manisa Dayal as Giannis’ talent agent Kevin, and Taylor Nichols as Milwaukee Bucks General Manager John Hammond.
Giannis, who serve ed as an executive producer for the biopic alongside Bernie Goldmann and director Akin Omotoso, was quick to sing its praises. “I am thrilled and honoured that Disney+ is bringing my family’s story to people all over the world,” he said. “My hope is that it will inspire those in similar circumstances to keep the faith, stay true to their goals and not give up on striving for a better life.”
It certainly is an inspiring story and is a testament to the strong drive and work ethic of Giannis and his brothers, who refused to give up despite the odds and instead went on to defy all expectations. At the age of 27, Giannis not only boasts one of the richest NBA contracts, but is also a five-time All-Star, two-time MVP, Finals MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and NBA Champion.
Rise is scheduled to hit Disney+ on June 24.