Thursday, January 30, 2014

NBA Players Wally Szczerbiak and Giannis Antetokounmpo talk about living in the United States and Europe

As a basketball fan who also enjoys travel I'm fascinated by the global scope of the game. I've had the fortune to play and talk hoops around the world so the prism I view the game is more international than most. Basketball might forever be associated with the United States but as the Global talent catches up and the stream of foreign players into the NBA continues, all fans will come to appreciate the global reach of the game.

Providing parallel perspectives on their impressions of "home", I present retired All-Star Wally Szczerbiak and rising star Giannis Antetokounmpo. Wally talks about his formative years growing up in Europe, living in Italy and Spain with his dad and EuroLeaue star, Walt.

From L to R: Son Wally playing Cleveland, younger days, Father Walt playing for Real Madrid
'The Szczerbiaks' via ESPN
'Below the Rim' with Brian Windhorst: Wally Szczerbiak (Jan 28, 2014)
BRIAN WINDHORST: (1m 09s) You were actually born in Europe. How many years did you spend over there?
WALLY SZCZERBIAK: I was born in Madrid while my dad was playing professionally for Real Madrid and I lived in Madrid for 3 years. Then my dad moved to Italy, played 2 years in Italy so I moved with him to Italy. We lived in Udine and he finished out his career in the Canary Islands for a year and a half...
WINDHORST: I don't even know where the Canary Islands are
SZCZERBIAK: They're right off the coast of Africa. Its a beautiful, tropical island. A big tourist spot. Just a spectacular place, it really is. But its a part of Spain so I remember those times vividly.
I went to first grade there for a part of the year and I remember some really good times there. It was pretty cool going to school and being the son of the star Basketball player on the team. I got some pretty good perks
WINDHORST: So you kind of had a Kobe-esque childhood even though it wasn't your whole childhood because you would eventually move to Long Island. Its interesting to be so international when you were so young
SZCZERBIAK: Yeah I grew up speaking Spanish, English and Spanish. I spoke Spanish fluently when I was a kid, and then when I went to Italy I could speak Italian fluently when I was there. And then I knew Spanish in 1st Grade along with English. When I moved back to the States unfortunately I didn't keep up with my Spanish as much but still had a good background in it. To say the least I got good grades in Spanish from High School to College...
Giannis had a tougher childhood growing up. Born in Greece with his 3 other brothers, his parents arrived from Nigeria as illegal immigrants. They lived under the threat of deportation for 20 years, the Family became recognised as Greeks only recently after Giannis garnered NBA attention.

Giannis posing with his parents alongside the Greek Prime Minister.
His parents arrived to Greece from Nigeria as illegal immigrants
The priority for Giannis growing up wasn't to help the family by becoming a millionaire NBA player but working together with his brothers "selling sunglasses, hats and bags on the street". Its a common sight in Europe to see African immigrants hawking wares by the side of the road. It comes as no surprise that the cheery Giannis appreciates the simpler pleasures of his new home in the USA playing for the Milwaukee Bucks.
TrueHoop: Make way for the Greek Freak
KEVIN ARNOVITZ: (5m 50s) You like being on the road in other NBA cities, you like to walk around, you get out of the hotel. A lot of guys kinda stay in, Playstation but you're out there. Where, What's your routine when you go to a new city in the NBA?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Let me explain you something (sic), here in Milwaukee so much cold, so much snow. I don't go outside so I just play my Playstation here in Milwaukee so when I go to roadtrip, we got good weather. Phoenix, LA its an opportunity to go outside, ride a bike, walk around, do stuff. Eat, go in a good restaurant. Do many stuff.
Further reading:
- Best of the Euroleague and NBA: Walt and Wally Szczerbiak
NBA provides an escape for Bucks rookie Antetokounmpo

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