Comprehension Exercise – 24
Creative Writing – 79
Study the article and answer the questions that follow
Text sourced from BBC
Olympiakos was Giannis’ team. He idolised their Brazilian forward Giovanni and Arsenal striker Thierry Henry. His and Thanasis’ playground commentaries featured them in the Champions League final rather than the NBA play-offs. That changed on a chance encounter. The teenage Giannis’ vast potential was first spotted by Spiros Vellanatis. Spiros Velliniatis, a basketball talent scout and coach, had identified the untapped potential in Athens’ migrant communities. As he wandered through Sepolia one day he spotted a 12-year-old Giannis and his brothers. “In Sepolia there are two courts next to each other. On the other, they were playing basketball, but Giannis and his brothers were just chasing each other,” Velliniatis says.
“It’s not only that I saw a person with supreme perception and change of direction, there was also a passion for victory. If you have your eyes open you can see talent in a person without a soccer ball at their feet or a basketball in their hands.” At this point in life, while his future NBA peers had already amassed thousands of hours of experience and skill, Giannis was starting from near scratch, learning to dribble and make a simple lay-up. Velliniatis fought on two fronts to unlock Giannis’ latent potential. He had to convince the Antetokounmpo family that pursuing basketball was worthwhile, while persuading a team that Giannis was a project worth risking.
“It was a double-pronged game,” he says. “With kids from Africa, often the family doesn’t respect basketball. Soccer or athletics are the only options for a career that makes money. “On the other hand, the big clubs in Greece know the cultural difficulties that can come from bringing in kids from these marginalised communities. “They think two or three African kids can start making a team within a team. They know that social problems in their neighbourhoods, the need for kids to work, mean they might not be there for practice. “It is not necessarily a problem of their racism, but of how society is.” Filathiltikos – in the third tier of Greek basketball and desperate for young talent, regardless of background – offered to find steady work for Charles and Veronica if Giannis and Thanasis committed to regular training sessions.
And the brothers were committed. Some nights they would sleep on foam mats at the gym, too exhausted to get back to the Sepolia flat they were rapidly outgrowing. Their fraternal rivalry drove them both to improve. They watched YouTube highlights reels of NBA greats in internet cafes. Allen Iverson, the Philadelphia point guard, was a particular favourite for Giannis, inspiring him to braid his hair in cornrows and to practise extravagant crossover dribbles. At 17, Giannis and his brothers were still helping shore up the precarious family finances by charming and cajoling sales of cheap fashion out of strangers. But there was a moment when Giannis realised an alternative might be materialising. “I was 15, we were at summer practice and Thanasis was the star of the team then,” he remembers.
“We were practising, he went on a drive and I knocked the ball out of his hand. He was chasing after me, but I held him off and dunked over him. “When I got home, the first thing I did straight through the door was tell my dad what happened. I realised that if I can do this against my older brother – the guy who knows my strengths and weaknesses best of all – I can do it against anybody.”
1. Who spotted the 12-year-old Giannis and his brothers in Sepolia, and what it led to?
2. Describe how Velliniatis describes the hidden basketball skill of Giannis.
3. What hurdles did Velliniatis face in trying to unlock the basketball talent of Giannis? How did the African origin of Giannis create problems for him and his coach?
4. What offer did Filathiltikos make to entice the Antetokounmpo family to make Giannis and his brother take to basketball sincerely?
5. When Giannis was 15, what single event happened that convinced him about his superb basketball talent?
1. A basketball talent scout and coach named Spiros Velliniatis spotted the talent of Gianni and his brothers. The chance meeting happened in Sapolia. This encounter between the coach and the young Giannis changed the life of the latter forever.
2. Velliniatis spotted Giannis and his brother while they were practicing how to chase each other, just the way players do in basketball. They were doing it in a vacant court adjoining one where the game was being played. Their agility and footwork impressed Velliniatis. Velliniatis could see in Giannis a burning passion to win.
3. Velliniatis faced dual hurdles in taking the young Giannis under his umbrella. First, the boy’s parents, being inclined to football, had no great interest in basketball. So, Velliniatis had to convince the boy’s parents that basketball could be a gainful career option for their young siblings.
Secondly, assimilating black African players in the team posed cultural challenges. When two or three players are inducted to the team, they tend to form a sub-group of their own, this disrupting the overall harmony of the whole team. Velliniatis had to convince the team owners that Giannis and his brother were too good talents to be ignored on racial grounds.
4. Filathiltikos offered to find steady jobs for Giannis’ parents to entice them to send their sons to the basketball practice regularly.
5. When Giannis was 15, an incident happened which convinced him about his superb basketball talent. When he was at A summer practice session with his elder brother Thanasis, the star of the team, he knocked the ball out of Thanasis’s hand making the latter to chase him. Snatching the ball off Thanasis was a great feat for Gianns. It was an electrifying moment in his life. Giannis realized that if he could do this against his older brother, he could do it against anybody.