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Antekounmpo is leading Greece to their first basketball Olympics since 2008

Greece have beaten all the teams put in front of them during their qualifying tour for the Paris Games, which start at the end of the month, and now Giannis Antekounmpo and his teammates are Olympians. The Buccaneers star led his country with 23 points against Croatia on Sunday, in one of the finals of the four-man basketball tournament to determine the final places.

Along with his MVP showing, teammates Georgios Papagiannis and Nick Calathes dropped 19th and 14th respectively to earn Greece’s first Olympic berth since 2008. “It’s great to qualify because that’s the first step,” Papagiannis said. “At the Olympics, we’re looking to do something really good there.”

Now that almost all countries have entered the main stage, the team from the Mediterranean will join the United States, France, Germany, Japan, Serbia, South Sudan, Canada and Australia. While France qualified as the host nation, seven other teams were eliminated based on their performance at the FIBA ​​World Cup last summer.

Giannis’ journey started with 32 points against the Dominican Republic, and 13 against Slovenia, a rest that should have faced Egypt, then he won the semi-final against Luka Doncic’s Slovenia, and finally this Sunday against Croatia.

“We knew we had an opportunity to do something we hadn’t done in years. We went in, knowing we had 4 finals to play. I am happy with the way the games went,” said the 29-year-old player after winning the final.

The Milwaukee player couldn’t hide his joy when the game was over. “We are very hungry as a team. The atmosphere is unbelievable. Everyone is having fun with each other, everyone is locked in, and they know their roles. We have an extremely good leader. Coach Vasilis Spanoulis puts that fire in our bellies and gives us the best strategy to compete,” he confirmed.

“Now, when we go to the Olympics, I think the best athletes in the world will compete there. We have nothing to lose. We just have to play Greek basketball and give everything we have, no matter who we play. I believe we have an amazing team and we can accomplish something special,” Antetokounmpo said.

The NBA star expressed his respect for his coach Vasilis Spanoulis, who has become his idol since growing up in Greece.

With his coach sitting next to him during the postgame interview, Giannis was asked what he learned from Vasilis Spanoulis, a EuroLeague legend who will return to the Olympics as a coach this time, instead of as a player in 2008.

The Bucks star started by making a big difference. “All the coaches I have in the national team have been unbelievable as coaches and minds and I respect them a lot,” he began speaking. “But coach Spanoulis won and you can’t teach that. Either you are a winner or you are not. He wants to win over us. You should have seen him in today’s shoot. He was literally running up and down. You could give him a jersey and he would play this game.”

Greece has secured a place in Group A at the Olympic Games in Paris, and will face Australia, Canada and Spain from the Bahamas in the group stage of the tournament.

Antetokounmpo feels confident with Spanoulis on his side. “I just love that I have someone like him around me and he knows I’m doing whatever I can to win,” the 29-year-old said. “I don’t play, I don’t cheat the game. His identity goes with the whole team. Now, we have 12 such players and when we go to the field, we play with that winning mentality.”

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