|▶Greeks Celebrate Milwaukee Team’s NBA Championship (2021-09-17)|
As the Milwaukee Bucks were about to win the NBA basketball championship Tuesday, people in Greece were watching closely.
With less than a minute left in the game, Yiannis Tzikas was getting ready to celebrate.
“It’s over. No one can turn this game now,” he said. His hands were shaking as he prepared to open a bottle of champagne, an alcoholic drink often served for celebrations.
Tzikas runs the Kivotos Café in Sepolia, a town in the Athens area. Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo used to get a sandwich and a drink at the restaurant on his way to play basketball as a teenager.
Tzikas opened the café to watch Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the championship series of the National Basketball Association.
Antetokounmpo is known as the “Greek Freak.” He led the Milwaukee team to its first championship in 50 years. The team defeated the Phoenix Suns 105 to 98.
After the game ended, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted a message on social media: “Incredible Giannis! Greeks everywhere celebrate!”
Antetokounmpo finished with 50 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots. He was named the most valuable player of the series.
“This is Giannis’ moment. He earned it and we’re proud of him,” Tzikas said.
The final game was played in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There is an eight hour difference from Athens. The game started at four o’clock in the morning local time. But Tzikas’ cafe was filled with local basketball fans, along with Antetokounmpo’s old supporters and friends in Sepolia.
They sat concerned through the first half of the game as Phoenix was winning. But the crowd came to life later as Milwaukee pulled ahead.
Kyriacos Hager watched while wearing Giannis’ jersey. “[Antetokounmpo] has brought back sporting role models to this generation,” he said. “He’s no longer Giannis from Sepolia, he’s Giannis of the entire world, an inspiration to a lot of people.”
Tzikas’ Café has a wall of framed memorabilia from the Antetokounpmo family. There are autographed jerseys and basketballs from the Bucks and the Greek national team.
The restaurant is close to where Antetokounmpo and his brothers, Thanasis, Kostas and Alex, grew up. Giannis’ three brothers also play professional basketball. Their parents were immigrants from Nigeria and gave their four boys Greek names.
Tzikas said Giannis always stops by the cafe when he visits Greece. He said his personality has not changed even with his fame.
“He was always simple, humble, and polite and when he grew up, he never forgot where he started,” he said. “He had a lot against him. He was poor and he was a different color than the rest of us and he made it...He believed in his dream and he made it happen.”
[July 21, 2021]