Comprehension Exercise – 23

Comprehension Exercise – 23

Creative Writing – 77

Study the article and answer the questions that follow

Giannis Antetokounmpo: NBA star’s rise from ‘hustling’ on Athens streets to MVP award

As he perches his near 7ft frame on a bench press at the paint-peeled Filathiltikos basketball club, fate seems to smirk at Giannis Antetokounmpo. When he was a teenager on this Athens court, he would have to wait for his brother, Thanasis, to sub out and give him the one pair of trainers they shared before he could enter the play. Now the floor is swarming with local kids in box-fresh, top-of-the-range basketball shoes with his name on them.

In the city beyond, he used to work as a wandering street vendor, flogging knock-off bags and sunglasses. He is still out there now, only in the form of billboards bearing his beaming face for various global and domestic brands. For his first 18 years, Antetokounmpo never left the country, but was never Greek. Now, after six years based in the United States, he returns as perhaps the most famous Greek alive, a multi-millionaire and the best basketball player in the world.

“It is insane,” the 24-year-old says. “Where we were then and where we are now, is an unbelievable journey. It is beyond my imagination.” Antetokounmpo was born in Athens in December 1994, the second son of Veronica and Charles, who had left Lagos in Nigeria in search of a better life. They found the peace they wanted but only in stateless, paperless limbo. Despite being born in Greece, neither Giannis, his older brother Thanasis, nor younger siblings Kostas and Alexis were able to claim Greek citizenship. As illegal immigrants, Charles and Veronica certainly couldn’t.

Greek government policy gave them no right to stay, but the family had no desire to leave. Instead, the six of them spent their nights crammed into a two-bedroom flat in Sepolia, a humdrum neighbourhood in the north of Athens, and their days finding what work they could without papers. Charles did odd-jobs, while Veronica babysat or accompanied Thanasis and Giannis as they tried to turn passers-by into buyers of cheap eyewear and accessories.

“We sold many different things – watches, handbags, sunglasses, key rings, CDs, DVDs. Whatever we could put our hands on,” Giannis recalls. “I was amazing at it. My brothers will tell you. Selling stuff and hustling – I was definitely one of the best, because I loved doing it and I loved spending time with my mum. “That background as a kid is where my work ethic is coming from. I saw my parents every single day working hard to provide for us, it was unbelievable and has stuck to me my whole life. “I don’t do it because I want to get fame, because I want to get money, that is just how I am built and how I am and all that comes from my parents and how they hustled.”

In what little leisure time he had, Giannis’ dreams were not of hoops, but goals. His father Charles had been a keen footballer, but as his hopes of making it professionally and changing the families’ fortunes faded, he passed the torch to his sons. 


1. What did Giannis Antetokounmpo do in his childhood to earn a little money?
2. Describe the roots of Giannis Antetokounmpo. From where did his family come and where did he grow up?
3. How did he enter basketball?
4. What signs are so visible today that point to Giannis Antetokounmpo’s rise to fame?
5. What works his parents did to make a living?


1. Giannis Antetokounmpo eked out a small income by peddling cheap counterfeit items like sun glasses, hand bags etc. in the streets of Athens. He did the job with a lot of interest and excitement.

2. Giannis’s parents migrated from Lagos in Nigeria. They landed in Greece, and spent some very hard days in Athens. Giannis was born there, but had no claim to Greek citizenship. He grew up in the impovershed quarters of the city in a cramped two-bed room flat where he lived with his five siblings. 

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo was a lanky young boy. He ran very fast. He was spotted by a basketball coach, and his journey in the world of basketball began. 

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo has become an international sensation in basketball. His beaming face appears in bill boards around the world, and sports companies pay hefty amounts to him for endorsing their goods. No doubt,  Giannis Antetokounmpo is the world’s basketball king today.

5. His father Charles did all sorts of odd jobs that came his way. His desire to enter football didn’t materialize. His mother Veronica did baby seating.

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