The new Giannis documentary on Amazon Prime.

The Giannis Antetokounmpo story has been told in print by Mirin Fader in her New York Times bestseller. It has received the Disney treatment with the based-on-a-true story film Rise. Now, there is a full-length feature documentary on the Greek Freak.

Prime Video’s Giannis: The Marvelous Journey debuts today and aims for an intimate look at Antetokounmpo’s remarkable tale of going from an unknown to an NBA champion for the Milwaukee Bucks and two-time MVP. Directed and produced by Kristen Lappas, this 1-hour, 48-minute film gives details and context to a story we’re familiar with.

There isn’t a whole lot new here but what makes this documentary a good watch are the interviews, which include Giannis’s mother Veronica Antetokounmpo, his brothers Thanasis, Kostas, and Alex Antetokounmpo, and his fiancée Mariah Riddlesprigger.

Most of us see Giannis Antetokounmpo as one of the best players in the NBA. In a league of amazing athletes, he is a unique talent. Early in the film, Giannis describes himself by saying: “I’m just a hard worker who is trying to survive because I’m scared of going back. I’m scared of losing all this.”

The Giannis Antetokounmpo story is essentially an immigrant story. Most Americans have no idea what it takes to get to this country and stay in this country. They have no clue about the terrible circumstances that drive desperate people to leave their homelands.

Lappas’ documentary does an excellent job of highlighting that anti-immigrant views are not unique to the United States. It also details the events that led to the Antetokounmpos leaving their native country, the sacrifices, and what they left behind.

The Antetokounmpos family is of Nigerian descent and they illegally migrated to Greece, which isn’t always welcoming to people from other lands. Giannis and three of his siblings were born in Greece, but unlike the U.S., there is no birthright citizenship. The Antetokounmpos lived under the threat of deportation in a sometimes hostile place.

As Giannis’s brother Alex says in the documentary: “We’ve always been outsiders. We had to live in fear.”

Of course, people treat you differently once they discover you have a special skill. The footage of young Giannis as a basketball player is fun. As sports fans, we see the glory, the fame, and the lifestyle. We don’t always understand and appreciate the struggle professional athletes go through to achieve their dreams.

Giannis: The Marvelous Journey takes you through what it was like for Giannis as the child of immigrants and also his own immigration story of going from Greece to America as an NBA player.

The film doesn’t spend time explaining why so many teams missed out on Antetokounmpo in the 2013 draft where he was the No.15 overall pick. Anthony Bennett was the top overall selection to the Cleveland Cavaliers – arguably the biggest bust in league history. As far as Antetokounmpo, it’s worth noting that he wasn’t considered a sure thing. Since that draft, he has grown three inches and gained 50 pounds of muscle.

The best moments of Giannis: The Marvelous Journey have little to do with basketball. It’s the stories of him not knowing NBA team facilities had onsite laundry facilities, learning to drive a car for the first time, and getting a ride to the arena from a stranger. Immigrants have to learn a lot on the fly when living in a new country.

The one revelation in Giannis: The Marvelous Journey is that Antetokounmpo said he almost quit basketball following the sudden death of his father in 2017. Charles Antetokounmpo, 54, suffered a heart attack.

The raw emotions of the Antetokounmpo family talking about him is what elevates Giannis: The Marvelous Journey. This documentary isn’t just an immigrant story. It’s an American success story. 

Giannis: The Marvelous Journey is available now to stream on Prime Video.

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.