Giannis Antetokounmpo was holding a small black handheld fan that seemed tiny when it hummed in his 12-inch-wide hands. He was battling the blazing sun in a hillside mansion as he watched his younger brother, Alex Antetokumbo, pose for photos near a basketball court overlooking Los Angeles for an ad campaign.
“Alex, the eyes,” Giannis said. “Tiger’s eyes are there, and then you blend it into a smile.”
Giannis turned around and grinned at the group of about ten people who were watching. He has been coaching Alex most of his life. When Giannis began his NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks at the age of 18, he quickly brought his family out of poverty in Greece to live with him. Alex was 12 years old.
“Sometimes I think I upset him,” Giannis, 28, later said, although Alex, 21, shows no signs that that might be true. “Maybe he does stupid things, stupid things, but he’s going down a path that I’m really proud of,” Yannis added.
When Giannis rose to NBA stardom — he won MVP honors twice and is MVP of the Tournament Team — he strived to bring his family with him on his journey. Three of his four brothers played professionally in the United States.
But over the past three years, he has brought them with him to what he hopes will be a more sustainable endeavour: taking ownership of their money and his future. A few months ago, Antetokounmpo launched Ante, Inc. To house the two brothers’ projects and investments. It’s about Giannis’ life outside of basketball, although basketball still matters a lot to him. In a few weeks, he will be eligible for a three-year extension worth around $173 million, but he doesn’t plan to sign an extension just yet.
“The real question won’t be this year – in terms of numbers, it doesn’t make sense,” Antitokounmpo said. But next year, next summer, it will make more sense for both parties. Until then, I don’t know.”
He added, “I wouldn’t be the best version of myself if I didn’t know that everyone is on the same page. Everyone is looking forward to the tournament. Everyone will sacrifice their time away from their families as I do.” And if I don’t feel like it, I won’t sign.”
This approach and increasing focus on business investments with his brothers is part of Antetokounmpo’s development as he begins to understand his ambitions and goals more deeply.
“From 2020 to 2023, people think I jumped 10 times off the court, but I think I jumped 10 times off the court,” he said.
“I gave it all.”
It started in the spring of 2020 when the world shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. It wasn’t clear what would happen to players’ salaries or endorsement deals as the season fluctuated. And he began to think of ways to diversify his sources of income.
“We were sitting at home. Well, now what?” “The basketball has been taken away from me, what do I have?” Antetokounmpo said. He downloaded a stock trading app and started investing on his own for the first time. He started networking with successful people from other industries for advice and guidance.
It was an eventful year for him, which may have contributed to his interest in increasing his income. His eldest child, Liam, was born that February, and he won the MVP award for the second time, for the 2019-20 season, which the Bucks ended with a loss in the Eastern Conference Semifinals at the NBA’s isolated campus at Disney World.
A few months later, Antetokounmpo signed a five-year, $228 million extension with the Bucks. But something wasn’t right. He felt numb, and he didn’t know why. He tells Bucks he doesn’t want to play basketball anymore.
He’s felt this way before. During his freshman year, he missed his family so much that he insisted the Bucks find a way to transfer them to Milwaukee, even threatening to go back to Greece if the team didn’t. He and his siblings shared a household while growing up. When Antetokounmpo left Greece for the NBA in 2013, he said his father, Charles, told him: “It doesn’t matter where you go in this world, it doesn’t matter, don’t worry about it, I’ll find you. I love you son. Go have a great season.”
“And I remember my mom crying,” Giannis said. “I’m leaving. And then when I came here it wasn’t the same. I was in the hotel. It was the first time in my life that I was lonely.”
Alex said the siblings are “pretty much each other’s best friends”.
When Giannis was feeling down during the 2020-21 season, he was reassured when he told his older brother, Thanasis, about his doubts. By then, Thanasis was also playing for the Bucks, and said that if Giannis wasn’t happy he would leave with him.
“I was leaving in 2020,” Giannis said. “I care about joy and happiness. I care about my children.”
Bax recommended talking to a sports psychologist, so Antitokounmpo gave it a try. This helped him find ways to deal with the stress and pressure he was feeling. He rediscovered the joy of playing basketball, and the Bucks won the championship that season.
“I think this is the best feeling I’ve had so far in basketball,” he said.
He wants it again.
The Bucks lost in the first round of the playoffs last season, winning only one game against the Miami Heat, as Giannis struggled with injuries.
Milwaukee fired its head coach, Mike Budenholzer, and appointed Adrian Griffin, who was an assistant coach to the Toronto Raptors. Antetokounmpo said this change is part of the reason he is not sure he will sign an extension.
“You have to see the dynamics,” he said. “What is the coach going to be like, how are we going to be together. At the end of the day, I feel like all my team mates know and the organization knows that I want to win the championship. As long as we are on the same page with that and you show me that we go together to win the championship, I am totally for it. The moment that I feel in it, oh, yeah, we’re trying to rebuild–“
Pause briefly before continuing.
“There will never be negative feelings with the Milwaukee Bucks,” he said. “I think we had an incredible 10 years, and there is no doubt that I gave everything for the city of Milwaukee. Everything. Every night, even when I’m hurting. I’m the Milwaukee Buck. I bleed green. I know that.
“This is my team, and it will be my team forever. I don’t forget the people who were there for me and allowed me to be great, show the world who I am and give me the podium. But we have to win another title.”
He’s halfway toward his goal of playing 20 seasons in the NBA and said he’d like to spend it with one team, as Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan have done.
“But at the end of the day, being a winner is beyond that goal,” he said. “Winning the championship comes first. I don’t want to stay 20 years in the same team and not win another championship.
He did not cite any motive for winning another tournament outside of his competitive fire. But the cultural significance that comes with winning could also fuel his growing stature off the field.
“We came from nothing.”
Giannis couldn’t help but gawk at the sales pitch as he sat in the living room of the house where he and Alex were snapping pictures. He was promoting a pain-relieving balm made by a company called Flexpower, which is partly owned by the Antitokounpo brothers. He has always considered himself a great salesman, ever since he was a child trying to help his parents sell sunglasses on an Athens street.
As the photo was taken, Giannis was poking around like a proud mother hen, smiling towards Alex. Working with the company was Alex’s idea.
“I knew you as a child!” Giannis said, stretching out his hands as if he was rocking a baby.
Later, Giannis thinks when he begins to think of Alex as an adult.
He said, “Maybe today.”
Four of the brothers are listed as co-founders on Ante, Inc.’s website, but Giannis is the chairman. And they have different roles, by virtue of their personalities. He describes Alex Thanassis, 31, as very impulsive and daring in his approach. Kostas, 25, has a quieter personality, but Alex said he excels at brainstorming.
Giannis involved his brothers in discussions about his new contract with Nike, which he says he negotiated himself this summer. One of his first investments was in Milwaukee Brewers, in 2021. The brothers have invested in a candy company, food company, and golf team owned by Venus and Serena Williams and Serena’s husband, Alexis Ohanian. They have a production company in the works, as do many other NBA players.
This year, Giannis became a co-owner of some funds with Kalamos Investments, whose CEO, John Kodonis, is of Greek descent. The joint venture donates 10 percent of its profits to financial education organizations.
“He spent a lot of time talking about what he wished he’d known about investing earlier,” said Jessica Fernandez, Calamos’ chief marketing officer. Antitokounmpo does not manage investment portfolios, but it fills those who do with questions about why and how they choose certain stocks.
Earlier this year, the Antetokounmpo brothers joined the ownership group of the Nashville Football Club.
“We came from nothing,” Antitokounmpo said. “And to sit in the owners’ booth with the other owners and enjoy the game and cheer on our team. Our team. Not just a team – our team. It’s crazy.”
Football was their first love. Their father, who died in 2017, played professionally for a brief period. Their foundation, the Charles Antitokounmpo Family Foundation, seeks to help disadvantaged people in Greece, the United States and Nigeria, where their parents grew up.
“Protect the family.”
The idea of someone on Giannis’s salary worrying about money may be gullible, but he’s frugal and cheap, he’ll admit.
“I want my kids to spend my money,” he said, smiling.
He said he wants six kids, and he’s about halfway there. He and his fiancée, Maria Riddlespreger, have two sons, Liam and Maverick, and Riddlespreger is pregnant with their third child, a girl.
Antetokounmpo worries when his children are pulled into the limelight with him. In the US his fame might not be as overwhelming as if he were playing in a bigger city. But in Greece things are different.
He added, “As LeBron James or Michael Jordan to the United States, as I am to Greece.” “Maybe bigger.”
He has noticed people filming his kids in their stroller and at a birthday party. He wants his children to be able to decide if they want to live a life in public. And on social media, they usually cover their faces.
And when he thinks of growing his wealth, he thinks of his children’s future as well.
The brothers try to make business decisions as a group, often through a thread titled “Antetokounbros” (which is also the name of their shop in Athens; they’ll open one in Milwaukee soon). They save personal texts for a different theme titled “FOE”, which stands for family above all.
He said he had felt taken advantage of in the past by some of the people appointed to handle his life, money or interests off the pitch, and he was confident that would never happen to his family.
“I see it with my teammates, some of my teammates,” said Antetokounmpo. “Oh, my cousin did this. My mom did this. You see that. It’s general. Mothers argue with their children, and sue each other for property that does not belong to them. You see it every day.”
He added, “The way we were raised in Greece and the things we went through every day to support our family, all those moments brought us close to each other. They knew that I would protect my family at any cost and take care of my brothers. And I did.”