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Why didn’t Giannis Antetokounmpo change his name back?

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a famous name. Long before he was an NBA Champion, MVP, and superstar of the league, Giannis was famous for having a surname that most had difficulty pronouncing. Giannis was quickly given a nickname, “The Greek Freak.” However, Antetokounmpo is not even Giannis’s original last name!

Why didn’t Giannis Antetokounmpo change his name back? Giannis was given the “Antetokounmpo” surname by the Greek government when he received his Greek citizenship in 2013. “Antetokounmpo” is the Greek transcription of Giannis’ original surname “Adetokunbo.” Giannis has kept his new surname along with his Greek citizenship.

What is Giannis Antetokounmpo’s original name?

Giannis Antetokounmpo was born as Giannis Sina Ugo Adetokunbo in Athens, Greece. “Giannis” is a Greek name, the modern variation of “Ioannis” or John. Giannis was born to Nigerian immigrants, who thus gave him a name befitting of his heritage. “Ugo” is the Nigerian name his mother gave, as she gave all of her sons a Nigerian name along with a Greek one. The surname “Adetokunbo” is also a Nigerian name specific to the Igbo people of Nigeria; this information was divulged by fellow Nigerian and NBA Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, who is also Igbo. Olajuwon said that the surname “Adetokunbo” means “the crown that has returned from overseas.”

Why was Giannis Antetokounmpo’s original name changed?

Giannis was born and raised in Greece, but due to Greek nationality laws, he was not automatically given Greek citizenship. This is because both of Giannis’s parents were not Greek citizens and did not have Greek heritage. Giannis also did not hold Nigerian citizenship, so he was effectively stateless. As Giannis made strides in his basketball ability and professional teams started to express interest, his lack of a passport made things difficult. He could not travel outside the country to do workouts with NBA teams, nor could he sign a contract with the Greek professional basketball teams in the first division.

By the time his 18th birthday came around, Giannis applied for Greek citizenship along with his older brother, Thanasis. As part of the documentation process, Giannis’s surname “Adetokunbo” was first transcribed into the Greek alphabet, then transliterated back into Latin alphabet. Because of the differences that exist between the two sets of alphabet, what was once “Adetokunbo” became “Antetokounmpo.” Because Giannis did not have any existing documentation, “Antetokounmpo” became his official surname. 

Why did Giannis choose the “Antetokounmpo” surname?

Giannis did not choose the “Antetokounmpo” surname, it was given to him as what is essentially a misspelling on Giannis’s Greek passport.

Why is Giannis called the “Greek Freak”?

Giannis himself is unsure of the origins of his nickname, but it boils down to two factors: the difficulty people had in pronouncing his name, and his outlandish athletic ability. Giannis got his “the Greek Freak” nickname in his rookie season, when he was still a raw talent. But his size and speed were apparent, with many in awe of his lethal combination of physical abilities. Giannis has grown into his own body and put on some muscle in recent seasons, and has truly embraced the “Greek Freak” nickname, both in mind and body. In 2018, Giannis trademarked the phrase “Greek Freak” for use for “apparel, sports drinks, and nutritional supplements.”

What name does Giannis prefer to go by?

Giannis Antetokounmpo has kept his name as it is on his Greek passport. He has not expressed any desire to be called “Ugo” (his Nigerian name given to him by his mother), nor does he use the “Adetokunbo” (his original Nigerian surname) surname in any capacity. In terms of nicknames, Giannis has said he likes the “Greek Freak” nickname to an extent, and has also jokingly referred to himself as “Superman” before.

What is Giannis’s name on his Nigerian passport?

As a request from his parents and also as a personal desire to connect to his roots, Giannis applied for Nigerian citizenship, based on his Nigerian heritage through his parents. He received the Nigerian passport in 2015, although it is unclear what name is used on his passport. While his original full name is Giannis Sina Ugo Adetokunbo, it is suspected that due to his name on his original piece of documentation (the Greek passport) is Giannis Antetokounmpo, it is most likely the same on his Nigerian passport.

How is Giannis Antetokounmpo’s name pronounced?

Many people have a hard time pronouncing Giannis Antetokounmpo’s name, which Giannis has acknowledged, but while his name looks menacingly difficult to say, it really isn’t. “Giannis” is pronounced as Ya-nis, and “Antetokounmpo” is pronounced as An-tet-oh-koon-poh.

Are there other NBA players who had different original names?

The NBA is no stranger to alternate names or name changes. Many players go by different names, such as Wardell “Stephen” Curry, Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, and Giannis’s Bucks teammate James “Khris” Middleton. Others have changed their names before: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf had different names before they converted to Islam, and chose new names that they believed better reflected their faith. Ron Artest also changed his name to Metta World Peace during his playing days to “inspire and bring youth together all around the world,” and is now known as Metta Sandiford-Artist.

But the case closest to Giannis’s name change is that of Kurt Rambis. Kurt Rambis was born in the United States and was of Greek descent. Before he played in the NBA, Rambis signed with a Greek professional basketball team. As he was eligible for Greek citizenship due to his Greek heritage, Rambis applied for and received his Greek passport. On his passport, Kurt Rambis’s name was transcribed then transliterated, as was the process for Giannis, to become “Kyriakos Rambidis.” Later, when Rambis joined the NBA, he did not use the name on his Greek passport, presumably because his original documentation (his American passport) had Kurt Rambis as his original name.

Giannis Antetokounmpo might have one of the most famous surnames in the NBA, but many do not know that he was born with a different last name. But the story behind his name change only adds to the growing legend of the “Greek Freak.”