EXCLUSIVE: “It’s amazing to help the team win, Giannis is my role model.” ASVEL star Kostas Antetokounmpo talks Hoops, life, brotherhood

Oct 14, 2021 | Holyland Hoops

Kostas Antetokounmpo may be new to the Euroleague but he has sure made a big impact so far with LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne scoring the winning basket against the defending champions Anadolu EFES in France. The Greek big man went up high to take care of a Dylan Osetkowski missed shot as he outjumped everyone to grab the ball with both hands and put it home to hand TJ Parker’s squad the 75-73 victory.

However, it wasn’t just the win over Ergin Ataman’s team but also raising their record to 3-0 on the young season with victories over Zalgiris and ALBA Berlin while the 23-year old Antetokounmpo just continues to see his impact become more and more significant for the club.

Ahead of Maccabi Tel Aviv’s visit to Astroballe in Villeurbanne, Lyon, on Thursday at 21:00, The Sports Rabbi spoke exclusively to Antetokounmpo about his decision to come to Europe and sign with ASVEL, playing with both LeBron James and Luka Doncic, growing up in Greece, Giannis and scoring the winner over the Turkish squad in front of the home fans.

“Wow! It was an amazing experience. I can’t really describe it the feeling. It was just so amazing to help the team win the game. The fans at home have been doing an incredible job and they bring the energy that the players need and provide such an amazing vibe.

ASVEL currently sports a perfect record of 3-0, but Antetokounmpo said there really isn’t a secret to their success, “We all just try to come in and play hard, that’s it really. Nothing more than that, play hard and out in a good effort.”

Antetokounmpo was the third of four sons born to Veronica and Charles in Athens, Greece where his childhood was not the easiest but despite the many challenges the family had, their bond is what made the family relationship so special.

Kostas Antetokounmpo – Photo Credit: Euroleague

“Financially was never a good situation and we had to sell things on the sidewalks. We never knew where the next meal was going to come from, but there was always happiness of being together.”

After arriving in the United States following in the footsteps of his brother Giannis, the 2x NBA MVP and current NBA Champion with the Milwaukee Bucks, Kostas attended Dominican High School which was followed by a year at the University of Dayton where he played for the Flyers during the 2017/18 season.

Antetokounmpo was then selected 60th overall in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers and was immediately traded to the Dallas Mavericks where he would play alongside the 3rd pick in the same draft, the budding superstar Luka Doncic.

“You could see Luka’s talent right away. He’s works so hard both on and off the court and he is also an amazing dude to be around as well.”

Luka Doncic in action – Dov Halickman Photography

After splitting time with the Mavericks and their G-League team the Texas Legends, Antetokounmpo moved to the Los Angeles Lakers where he won a championship ring in the 2019/20 season that was finished in the “Orlando Bubble” making him the first of the brothers to take home the coveted NBA title.

“They were really happy for me and they said that this would push them even harder to get one themselves,” Kostas reminisced.

Of course, playing with the Lakers also means the opportunity to play with the likes of arguably the greatest basketball player of the generation, LeBron James, “It was great to have the chance to play with LeBron. He is one of the best players ever and I learned so much from him in practice along with his mentality and the way he handled himself every day.”

Kostas Antetokounmpo – Photo Credit: Youtube

This past NBA season saw his brothers Giannis and Thanasis add championship rings to the family collection which delighted the younger Kostas, “It was a dream come true for them and seeing what they had accomplished with the Bucks. That was amazing for me to be a part of as well.”

While Antetokounmpo says he is close with all of his brothers and that they all hold a special place in his heart, “To me he means a lot. He’s my brother since day one and that is the case for all of my brothers. Giannis is a role model as is my older brother Thanasis. We always help each other out.”

Following the 2020/21 season, Antetokounmpo decided to go overseas and continue his development in Europe to join a team owned by a former NBA great in his own right.

Kostas Antetokounmpo – Photo Credit: Euroleague

“It was my decision along with my family. I felt I needed to get some game experience and ASVEL Villeurbanne was a great fit for me as a player. I am happy as to where I’m at. Tony Parker played an influence and coach TJ Parker guided me as what I felt would be a great move.

So far, the European adventure has been better than advertised for Antetokounmpo and being a part of a winning team makes it all that much better, “It has been pretty good. I didn’t put any expectations on myself but I play hard and I believe that I am doing a good job of it. I am happy that we are winning and that is the most important thing.”

As for the NBA, that seems to be something that should it happen down the line, then great, however, he has other goals on his mind, “I don’t know, hopefully one day. But right now the goal is to get better every day and help my team win.”

Chris Jones – Photo Credit: ASVEL

Up next for Antetokounmpo and ASVEL is Maccabi Tel Aviv who are currently in the midst of a two game losing streak with a 1-2 record on the season. The 6”10 forward looked ahead to the challenge and is also relying on former Yellow & Blue guard Chris Jones to help in his preparation.

“Just staying in the game and being focused will be key. We have to play hard and we feel that we are doing well defensively so far this season. We need to stay focused in order to finish off the game.”

“Chris Jones hasn’t mentioned Maccabi yet, but for sure he will help us out now that we are done with EFES. I love his game and he is a great point guard along with being a terrific scorer. He plays really hard.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo – Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Just before ending the conversation a very simple but yet such a complicated question was brought to the forefront; who is better Giannis or LeBron? “That’s a tough question for me and one that is hard for me to answer. That’s for other people to answer because I’ll be biased.”

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