By: Stavroula Kotrotsios
PHILADELPHIA – WELLS FARGO CENTER – Upon entering the Philadelphia 76ers arena on April 13, 2015, fans were confronted with an endless sea of blue and white in honor of Greek Heritage Night hosted by the Philadelphia Greek Basketball League (PGBL). The Greek community came out to support the Philadelphia 76ers game and watch the rising star Giannis Antetokounmpo who plays for the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The PGBL Commissioners responsible for the organization and success of the event were John Vasiliou and Bill Zonios.
There were 1,000 Greeks in attendance from the region spanning from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. This was the largest Greek Heritage Night hosted for a NBA game throughout the country and it was a proud moment for Greeks in America and in Greece. The event was covered by local and national Greek media as well as the sports media in Greece.
Greek Heritage Night began with pre-game festivities that included a musical performance by the band “Atlantis of Philadelphia” at the gates of the arena in the Wells Fargo Center. Guests were greeted with the band’s music featuring genres ranging from Greek folk to Greek pop and attendees joined in to dance. The commencement of the game was invoked by a special performance by Kaliope Karapalides who sang the United States national anthem.
Fans watched the game, where they witnessed the player dubbed “Greek Freak”, none other than Giannis Antetokounmpo, in action. At the half-time show, spectators enjoyed Greek Folk dancing performance by the Pegasus Dance Group of Upper Darby. The professional Greek dancers were clad in traditional Greek costumes as they performed their dancing routine on the court for all to see. The “Greek Freak” led his team to victory with a final score of 107-97 against the 76ers.
At the end of the game the youth in attendance for Greek Heritage Night had an opportunity to shoot hoops on the NBA Court of the Wells Fargo Center. Co-Commissioner of PGBL, John Vasiliou then invited Giannis Antetokounmpo out to the court to meet with fans. John Vasiliou and Bill Zonios presented Giannis with the PGBL Award where they inducted him into the PGBL Hall of Fame. Giannis graciously accepted and addressed the Greeks in attendance, expressing pride in his Greek nationality and in the Greek culture and language.
“I would like to thank all the Greeks that came out to tonight’s game and held the Greek flag up high. Tonight I see the love and support of the people and that gives me greater determination to work hard and make Greece proud,” said Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is of Nigerian descent and was born in Athens, Greece. He was raised in Greece and has Greek citizenship. What makes Gianni so amazing is his hard work ethic and natural talent on the basketball court. In 2012 he was able to rise as a star in Greece where he played for the team Filathlitikos Zografou in Athens, Greece. In 2014 he was drafted to play for the NBA by the Milwaukee Bucks where he has been ever since. Giannis is only 20 years old, and at a whopping 6 ft. 11 in. and 217 lb. he is projected as a rising star in the NBA.
PGBL Co-Commissioner John Vasiliou told Hellenic News of America, “Tonight was a tremendous night for the Greek-American Community of Philadelphia to show how proud we are of our Greek Heritage. 1,000 Greek-Americans from all over Philadelphia came together as one to show Gianni Antetokounmpo how proud we are of him! This was an event that took several weeks of planning. What a memorable evening for our community…especially for the children!”
Greek Heritage Night with the Philadelphia 76ers is the largest event that the PGBL has ever organized. It was hosted as a joint effort between the PGBL, Colonial Marble and Granite, The Greek American Heritage Society of Philadelphia, The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia 76ers of course.