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Greek national team an Antetokounmpo family affair for EuroBasket

Disney+ "Rise" Los Angeles Premiere

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 22: (L-R) Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Kostas Antetokounmpo, Alex Antetokounmpo and Giannis Antetokounmpo pose at the Disney+ “Rise” Los Angeles Premiere at Walt Disney Studios Main Theater on June 22, 2022 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)

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“We always talked about it. We always dreamed about it.”

That was how Giannis Antetokounmpo described he and three of his brothers — Thanasis, Kostas and Alex — donning the blue and white jerseys of their native Greece together for EuroBasket this September.

“It is definitely fun. We always talked about it, we always dreamed about it,” Antetokounmpo told NBC Sports while promoting Antidote Health. “And this year, we’re going to be able to make that happen.

“Just, you know, to represent your country with your brothers along your side it’s big for our family. I know my dad is looking from above and is extremely proud. I know my mom is happy and I hope we can do the best job possible, but it’s definitely something that we talked about our whole lives.”

Giannis looked more than ready for EuroBasket — the European championships next month — in the team’s first tune-up on Tuesday, dropping 31 points in 20 minutes as Greece dominated traditional power Spain.

Giannis even drew “M-V-P” chants from the crowd, but for him, the family aspect of this run makes it special. Their family bond was forged not hustling in the gym but rather hustling on the streets just to put food in their mouths.

Next month, the Antetokounmpo brothers are representing a country that did not always welcome their family, which had emigrated from Lagos, Nigeria, in search of a better life. The Antetokounmpos lived in Sepolia, a blue-collar neighborhood of Athens, and Giannis often helped his parents by selling sunglasses, watches, DVDs and more at a street stand to make ends meet. It was a grueling way to make a living during brutally tough economic times in Greece (it still is). Out of those challenging times came the rise of the nationalist Golden Dawn party in Greece, which tried to blame immigrants for many of the country’s problems.

The Antetokounmpo family faced blatant racism on top of the challenges of just making ends meet (they were evicted and had to move several times). Giannis has always been quick to say that there were more people — priests, neighbors, friends — who were kind and helpful than there were people trying to tear them down, but it didn’t make the challenges easier.

Antetokounmpo says it was his family sticking together that got them through those times and formed an unbreakable bond. The memory of those experiences keeps Giannis the most humble of NBA superstars.

Their mother, Veronica, will be in Italy for the EuroBasket games (the group stage games for Greece are near Milan).

“Yes, she’s definitely gonna come out in the games,” Giannis said. “She’s always at the game. She’s our number one fan.”

Those experiences on the streets of Athens are why Antetokounmpo said he became an investor and ambassador of Antidote Health, an Israeli telemedicine startup that describes itself as viewing “accessible, affordable healthcare as a fundamental human right.” Antidote seeks to provide affordable healthcare to the millions in the USA (and around the globe) who have no health insurance or are underserved with their medical and mental health plans.

“Growing up in Greece, we didn’t have access to [healthcare], you know, there were a lot of situations a lot of times that my dad was terrified to go to the hospital,” Antetokounmpo said, later adding he didn’t have regular medical care until he was 18. “He was terrified of the doctor visit. He was terrified to just go talk to the doctors, to take a hospital visit…

“I believe it’s a human right. And I really believe at this point in my career, I have the platform to change that. So this while I’m taking this chance with Antidote Health, and I’m out here, you know, trying to change that.”

He can push for that change because of his global platform — one that will only grow bigger if he dominates in EuroBasket with his brothers.

Something they look ready to do.