2017 might not be “the year of” Giannis Antetokounmpo, but it’s pretty dang close. The 22-year-old Milwaukee Bucks star was named to his first NBA All-Star Game in February, and for good measure, Antetokounmpo was voted in as a starter for the Eastern Conference. Beyond that, the “Greek Freak” is the best player on a Bucks team that appears to be playoff bound and Antetokounmpo is now headlining a major advertising campaign for the first time in his still-young career.
With a little help from Mountain Dew, Antetokounmpo played a bit of a prank on some of his unsuspecting fans in Milwaukee. In short, Antetokounmpo appears out of nowhere to stagger fans who are awaiting bus service in the city and he happily engages in conversation with them while spreading the cheer that comes with his bubbly and magnetic personality.
In conjunction with the campaign, we caught up with Giannis to discussing his burgeoning career, the way he is perceived and whether even he is surprised by what he can accomplish between the lines of an NBA floor.
What runs through your mind when you see and hear fans erupt with joy when they see and meet you for the first time?
Joy, shock, amazement, all of the above really. Meeting my fans is an awesome feeling that never gets old. I loved working with Mountain Dew. It was an awesome experience getting to connect with Bucks fans in such a personal way through a lighthearted prank. During the shoot, it was cool to see how excited the fans were after I surprised them and shows why Bucks fans are the best fans in the NBA.
Is it surreal, at age 22, that you would have a full-blown campaign like this one with Mountain Dew centered around you?
It was perfect because it matches my personality and is just as much about the fans as it is me. I also love a good prank as my teammates can tell you. Everything Mountain Dew does starts with the fans in mind, which is what makes them such a great partner. It’s surreal being part of Team DEW and such an accomplished roster of NBA stars. Every day I just try to be the best player and person that I can be on-and-off the court – hopefully my fans get to know the real me along the way.
Meeting and speaking to Allen Iverson is something that a lot of NBA fans would cherish and it seems like you did as well. What did meeting an idol of yours mean to you and what other idols (not just in the NBA) would you love to meet?
I’ve been a fan of AI since I was a kid, So here I am thinking I’m pranking my fans and all of a sudden everyone disappears. I was confused, but then the DEW team flipped the script on me. Out of nowhere, AI is on the screen. I was shocked and it was awesome. Hearing his words of encouragement meant a lot, especially knowing that I’m still growing in my career and he is such a legendary NBA player.
It has been a meteoric rise for you to the point where you weren’t just an All-Star, but an All-Star starter, in your fourth season. Are you ahead of schedule with where you thought you would be at this point in your career?
I’m proud of what I have accomplished, but there’s more ways I can improve and believe that I can do a lot better than what I’m doing right now on the court. I am devoted to improving my game, setting goals and doing the best that I can for the Bucks. I just want to keep getting better every day.
It recently came to light that there is a mural of you illustrated on a court that you grew up playing on in Greece. What kind of an honor was that for you and is it ever hard to have the expectations that come with a whole country pulling for you?
It was a huge honor that I’m amazed and humbled by. Greece is a huge part of who I am and it means a lot to have my country behind me. I’m always blown away by the support I get both in the U.S. and back home. I try to connect with my fans whenever I get the chance because their loyalty means so much to me.
Are you ever surprised at what you are able to do on a basketball court?
I didn’t know I’d ultimately be here and at the level I’m currently playing at, but I definitely would dream about it. I devote a lot of hours in the gym and give everything I’ve got to be the best I can be. But I definitely feel that there is more I can to achieve. Everything I do on the court is to help the team and to win basketball games. I do have a lot of fun dunking though.