Giannis Antetokounmpo on the Challenges of a New Coach, “Controlling the Narrative” and the Appeal of Starry

The big man is branching out

February 15, 2024 9:00 am
Giannis Antekounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo in action during a game against the Utah Jazz at Delta Center on February 04, 2024.
Getty Images

We’ve known Giannis Antetokounmpo as many things: an All Star, an MVP, a champion, a “freak.” With his 30th birthday approaching, Antetokounmpo is now giving us a chance to see different sides of him that exist off the hardwood.

In one fell swoop on February 19, we’ll bear witness to his qualifications as a family man and business leader with the release of Giannis: The Marvelous Journey, a Prime Video documentary about his life, co-produced by his new content studio, Improbable Media. And in a new commercial for Starry, we get a glimpse at a more playful Antetokounmpo, as he sits beside a cartoon lemon and lime duo who subtly diss a legacy soft drink with which the PepsiCo brand is in direct competition.

InsideHook spoke to Antetokounmpo about his new media venture and the appeal of Starry, while making time to discuss the compelling developments in that other career of his in the NBA as well. (This interview has been edited.)

InsideHook: What was it about Starry that drew you to the product as a pitch man?

Giannis Antetokounmpo: I love the product. I’ve tried it myself. It’s crisp, it’s refreshing, and it just hits different. I love to work with people who are fun. At Starry, they love to joke around. They’ve made it easy for me to show my personality, my acting skills. In the new commercial I think I did pretty well.

Are you hinting at more acting gigs in the future?

[Smiles] No, I’m trying to focus on basketball. After basketball, who knows what the future holds? I might hit up Denzel Washington and Leonardo DiCaprio and tell them that I’m coming.

You’re also coming for movie studios. Tell me about Improbable Media, your documentary and why you want to diversify your portfolio in this way.

I’ve definitely been enjoying it. I’ve been making a lot of moves, obviously. I have tried to use my platform, and I want to create something that can outlast me, something that’s bigger than me, bigger than basketball. So the production company interested me. This is something that applies to my life and things that I do.

I want to produce more stuff, but step number one is the documentary. It was a way for me to show my real journey. People don’t see it from my perspective and my family’s perspective. In the film, they see the real Giannis. I don’t do a lot of sit-down interviews or talk shows because that’s not really my personality. But I felt like I created a comfortable environment for the film, and I was able to do that with my family. It’s fun; it shows a different side of me. A lot of people know me as “the Greek Freak,” as a basketball player. But they don’t know me as a brother, a son, a father, a businessman. I’m so happy that I’m able to show those sides of me and able to control that because sometimes in my world, you don’t control the narrative, the things that are out there about you. But this is one of those times that people can see the real me without anybody being the mediator.

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Usually when people hear about a famous person wanting to control the narrative they might think they have something to hide, but it’s interesting to hear a different perspective on that — this idea that you should have the right to tell your own story as you’ve experienced it.

Yeah. I’ll give you an example. A couple of years ago there was a book that came out about me, my journey and my family’s journey. I didn’t have anything to do with that book, and everybody, when they approach me, they think that it’s my book. They say things like, “I love you, I love your book, can you sign it?” And I’m like, “What book?” I never wrote a book or authorized anyone to write one. Obviously, there’s freedom of speech and people can write things about you, but that was the first time I understood that I want my story to be told in my words.

I like to keep things to myself. My brother tells me all the time I’m like a hermit. I love playing basketball. After basketball, I go back and take care of my family and try to live an honest and humble life as much as I can. Being an All Star, a champion, et cetera, et cetera, I don’t really care about that, but I do care about my family, my story, my journey. I care about my father’s legacy because he didn’t have money, he had nothing. So I don’t want anybody to take that truth away from him. My mom always gets so frustrated when she see things that are not accurate. You can’t really control that, but I created a safe zone where my mom can come and speak her own truth. I’m very excited for that, and if that is the only thing that stays after I’m gone, then I’m very happy with what we create with the production company.

What can we expect from Improbable Media in the future?

I’ll stick with things that interest me. I have a lot of smart people who work with me and they have a lot of ideas. But I love sports, and sports documentaries are something that I watch that I can relate to and I try to learn from as much as I can. But, hey, I also watch a lot of reality TV with my wife, so who knows? Maybe we can do a reality TV show.

Maybe you’ll call some of the housewives you know and get them together.

[Smiles] Nah, not them, not the housewives. But we will come together as a board and make decisions. I want this to be successful, I want it to be practical, I want it to create jobs so it has to be successful, and there are smart people with me who can help make decisions with me.

I wish you luck with that, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about the current NBA campaign for you and the Bucks. You have a new coach, Doc Rivers, and I’d like to know about the challenges that come with such a transition, especially when it happens in the middle of a season.

It’s very, very hard, I’m not going to lie. It’s been very, very hard. This year, we’ve played 50 games so far. I’ve been always trying to figure out what things are, how things are going, and how can I keep my teammates and the team together. You try to figure out the people that you’re working with because when a new coach comes in it’s like having a different boss. They have different game plans, they operate in a different way, you approach them differently, so it’s been a little bit draining. But at the end of the day, I believe when you face adversity, that’s when you excel the most.

I’m excited to work with Doc. He’s been a spectacular coach; he knows the game of basketball. I think we are trending toward the right direction. He’s adding new stuff to the team. Guys are excited for what the future holds. Working with Coach Griffin was an incredible experience. We won a lot of games with him. He’s an unbelievable guy. Both of my bosses have been incredible to the team and to me, but this tradition has been hard. But we’ll figure it out, and once we do, we are going to be very, very, very, very scary, because we have a great team.

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