LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne big man Kostas Antetokounmpo is a member of one of, if not the, most decorated families in basketball history.
Kostas Antetokounmpo, ASVEL: 'I feel really blessed'
His brothers Giannis and Thanasis won the NBA title with Milwaukee in 2021. A year earlier, in 2020, Kostas lifted the NBA trophy with the Los Angeles Lakers. Kostas is not the first Antetokounmpo brother to play in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague; Thanasis played for Panathinaikos OPAP Athens during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 campaigns. There are two more Antetokounmpo brothers - Alex, the youngest one, is playing for Mississauga of the G League and Francis did not play professional basketball.
Like Giannis and Thanasis, Kostas Antetokounmpo started to play for Filathlitikos in his native Greece, but once Giannis was selected in the 2013 NBA Draft, he moved to the United States along with Alex and his parents and played high school and college basketball there.
"It's been a great experience. I feel really blessed that I was able to experience that and I'm happy that my brother was able to experience the same experience that we all had basically together," Kostas said. "I know it's super rare to see that, so I really have no words for it. Just blessed beyond every point."
Kostas was blessed to have a close relationship with all his family and his two older basketball-playing brothers in particular had great impacts on his growth, on and off the court.
"They have been a role model to me before even basketball. They taught me so many things just about life and just how to be a better person. And in the basketball area, they have helped me a lot, too. So I love those guys - my friends, my brothers," Antetokounmpo said.
When Antetokounmpo won the NBA championship with the Lakers, Giannis was already the competition's MVP and Thanasis was also in the league. The fact that he was the first to lift that trophy gave him bragging rights in the family.
"I joked about it, but not too much because I know they wanted it,” Kostas said. “But when they won, I celebrated with them. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be in Milwaukee when they won, but I called them immediately and I was jumping around, I was laughing, I was having a good time, so I was happy, just happy to see that."
Before he decided to join ASVEL, Kostas sought the advice of his brothers in general and Thanasis in particular, who naturally had the most insight into playing in the EuroLeague.
"He says it is a really good league, a competitive league, and you need to work hard,” Kostas relayed. “And I appreciated that. He told me that I'm ready. I'm ready to show what I can do and [be] ready to play."
Thanasis is also the one who inspired him to make this dream come true in the first place. He was the first to try basketball and convinced his brother to join him.
"I was basically following Thanasis's footsteps because Thanasis was the first one that played basketball,” Kostas recalled. “Me and Giannis used to play soccer when we were little, so, you know, he came home one night… He was like 'you guys should try basketball'. I was like 'Nah, we don't like basketball', and he said 'it's fun, you guys should try it' And we just started playing and we just fell in love with it."
Kostas also gives his parents a lot of credit for the players being where they are right now because they made the right decisions on and off the court. They instilled discipline at home, made sure the boys kept up with their school work and delivered important life lessons.
The Antetokounmpo brothers had the perfect combination of size and skill to play basketball at the highest levels, but none of that would have mattered without a final ingredient: competitiveness. All of them are fierce competitors, which leads them to play with a lot of intensity.
"You never know. It could be your last game, so you just go out there, just play hard, just play aggressive," he said. "And once you start doing it, it's just the only way you know now. You can't go back to the other way.”
It is a well-known story that four of the five Antetokounmpo brothers were born and raised in Athens to Nigerian immigrants and grew up with very limited money in the Sepolia neighborhood. This is something that is at the back of their minds, that makes every good moment even better.
"I value the hard times, too, you know? Hard times doesn't mean that it's sad. It doesn't mean that there's no beauty in it, you know? So when we had hard times, we were still together. We were still a family. So... how can I explain this? It was like a beautiful struggle. That's what I could say, like a beautiful struggle.
"So I value those times and I value the times and the opportunity God gave us… and everything that my mom and my dad were able to provide for us, and even my brother was able to provide for me and for my younger brother. So I'm grateful for all of that."