MILWAUKEE — The world may know Giannis Antetokounmpo as the NBA MVP. But in 2013, he was an 18-year-old kid living in Greece with big hoop dreams.
"I want to be an NBA player,” said a then 18-year-old Giannis in 2013 when asked what was his career goal.
Mirin Fader wrote the book 'Giannis: The Improbably Rise of an NBA MVP.' It focuses on Giannis’ younger years.
Fader says Giannis grew up living in one or two room apartments with his three brothers and his mom and dad. The family constantly moved because of evictions. On top of that, his parents were undocumented immigrants. It made Giannis and his siblings fearful their parents could be arrested and deported by the government at any time.
"His parents Charles and Veronica were working to the bone outside in these outdoor markets, with illegal permits trying to sell. And there were just days where they just did not bring home, you know, not much of anything, and there were days where his dad didn't eat for two days,” said Fader.
In order to play basketball, Fader says Giannis and his bother Thanasis walked about five miles to the gym, sometimes sleeping there when they had two-a-day practices.
“You know it's very, very hard to play a sport when you haven't eaten anything. And to hear his teammates tell me there were practices where he fainted because he didn't eat anything,” said Fader.
Even though Giannis was born in Greece, the Greek government would not give him a passport or claim him as a citizen until right before he was drafted.
"He didn't have a chance because he simply didn't have the papers. That made it really hard to ascend, and that is why he played in the lower-level division, because he wasn't documented,” said Fader.
Growing up, Giannis shared shoes with his brother Thanasis. It was something that stuck with him even after arriving in Milwaukee.
“Rookie year with Milwaukee, the team would give him just dozens and dozens of shoes and he just refused to wear them. He wanted to wear the same pair over and over. As somebody that had to share a shoe with his brother, he could not stomach the idea of just being so frivolous to have that many shoes,” said Fader.
Now he is living his dream and playing for a championship. Nearly a decade ago, Giannis told TMJ4's Lance Allan he wanted to make those he left behind in Greece proud.
"It's unique, unique emotion, because you know all the people in Greece back home, are going to talk about this, me and my brother, you know,” said Giannis in 2013.
Fader’s book on Giannis will be out in August.