FIBA OQT

‘Means a lot to me’: Giannis emotional as Greece ends 16-year Olympic wait

Delfin Dioquino

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‘Means a lot to me’: Giannis emotional as Greece ends 16-year Olympic wait

BEST PLAYER. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece win the 2024 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Piraeus, Greece.

FIBA

Two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo is set for his Olympic debut as Greece makes the Summer Games for the first time since 2008

MANILA, Philippines – Giannis Antetokounmpo sat on the sidelines and wiped away tears of joy as Greece advanced to the Paris Olympics.

That was how much it meant to him seeing Greece make the Games for the first time since 2008 after ruling its hosting of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Piraeus with an 80-69 win over Croatia on Sunday, July 7.

It will be the first Olympic appearance for the two-time NBA MVP, who finished with 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists in the finale.

“Since I was a kid, I always wanted to play in the Olympic Games. This is something that means a lot to me,” said Antetokounmpo.

“Having my teammates who have been great guys for so many years, we want to do something. We want something memorable and we were able to do it.”

Georgios Papagiannis backstopped Antetokounmpo with 19 points, while former Nick Calathes produced 14 points, 11 assists, and 5 rebounds as Greece pulled away in the middle quarters after a 22-22 tie in the opening frame.

The Hellas built a 66-53 lead through three periods before Antetokounmpo brought them home, accounting for 9 of their 14 fourth-quarter points to help the team return to the Olympics after missing the last three editions.

It has been so long since Greece last competed in the Olympics that its head coach, Vassilis Spanoulis, still played for the national team back then.

“This means something for me, for the team, for the country. Being able to get the job done, it feels good,” said Antetokounmpo. “But this is one job. We have another job in front of us so hopefully, we can get that one done too.”

Ivica Zubac put up a 19-point, 12-rebound double-double for Croatia, which failed to qualify for the Olympics for the second straight Games.

Mario Hezonja and Mateo Drezjnak fired 15 points apiece and Dario Saric posted 14 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists in the losing effort.

It only gets tougher for Greece from here on out as it faces a tall order in the Olympics after being bunched in the “Group of Death” featuring world No. 2 Spain, No. 5 Australia, and No. 7 Canada.

But Antetokounmpo is convinced the Hellas have what it takes.

“I think, as a team, we are very hungry. The atmosphere is unbelievable, everybody is having fun with one another, everybody is very, very, very, very locked in. Everybody knows their roles,” said the Milwaukee Bucks star.

“We have nothing to lose. We just got to play Greek basketball and go from there, give everything that we have every single day no matter who we play.”

“At the end of the day, I really believe that we have an incredible team and we can accomplish something special.” – Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.