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Sunday, May 19, 2024

‘Greek Freak’ Giannis coming to PH for FIBA World Cup

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FIBA world No. 9 team Greece, which boasts off a national team anchored around NBA champion and back-to-back Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo, the power-dunking 6-foot-9 forward of the Milwaukee Bucks, is headed to the Philippines.

Known around the NBA and the world as the “Greek Freak,” Antetokoumnpo will be making his first appearance in Philippine soil on August 25 to September, with his home team of Greece bracketed with the United States, New Zealand and Jordan in Group C of the preliminaries.

Filipino fans will be able to witness Antetokounmpo in action live for as low as P999 for a day pass, covering two exciting, world-class basketball games.

Day passes and other ticket packages are already on sale at https://philippines-ticketing.worldcup.basketball/. Fans of Antetokounmpo and Greece, even Milwaukee Bucks, can avail of the Follow My Team Pass which allows pass holders to watch five games that their preferred team will play in the Group Phase. The two remaining dates of play will be decided depending on their position after the first round of the Group Phase.

Understandably, the demand for tickets to the USA-Greece clash on June 28 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City has gone through the roof, rivaling even the clamor for passage to Group A games featuring Gilas Pilipinas.

A fascinating subplot of the USA-Greece game is the rematch of sorts between Antetokounmpo and Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, named as an assistant to Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors for Team USA in the World Cup.

The Heat eliminated the Bucks 4-1 in the first round of the NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs late April, and the Greek Freak might be aching to exact vengeance on a global stage.

Greece and Antetokounmpo, who will probably be joined by his brothers Thanasis and Kostas, debut in the Group Phase against No. 33 Jordan on June 26 and wrap up the first round against No. 26 New Zealand on June 30.

From there, all possibilities await Greece, if it moves up the ladder in the Group Phase. Lying in ambush in the second round will be a top two team from Group D, currently made up of No. 8. Lithuania, No. 18 Montenegro, No. 31 Mexico and No. 55 Egypt.

While the up-close sighting of Antetokounmpo, who led the Bucks to the NBA championship in 2021 after snagging consecutive MVP honors in 2019 and 2020, will be a first for most Filipino fans, this year’s FIBA World Cup actually marks the third time he will be sharing the playing court with Gilas Pilipinas, having suited up for the Greek national team in the 2014 World Cup in Spain (9th place) and the 2019 World Cup in China (11th place).

In fact, Antetokounmpo had three points and six rebounds in 14 minutes when Greece beat the Philippines and Andray Blache 82-70 in the first round in Seville, Spain.

Of Nigerian descent, Antetokounmpo was born in Athens, Greece and was chosen 15th overall by Milwaukee during the 2013 NBA Draft. He is a seven-time NBA All-Star, five-time First Team selection and four-time All-Defensive First Team choice.

He was the NBA Finals MVP and All-Star Game MVP in 2021, and the Defensive Player of the Year in 2020.

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