Friday marks the Disney+ debut of the film “Rise” which chronicles the journey of a Nigerian family that emigrated to Greece that overcame tremendous odds to produce a trio of NBA players (Giannis, Thananis, and Kostas Antetokounmpo) who each won an NBA championship. It is an inspirational story unlike any we have ever seen before.
The odds of having one child make it to the NBA are ridiculously slim—but to have three in the league, and all three go on to win an NBA championship?
If you didn’t know better, you would think the story of Giannis, Thananis and Kostas Antetokounmpo was straight out of the imagination of some Hollywood producer.
But their journey is real, a journey fueled by faith, focus, determination, and collective perseverance to achieve what so many told them was unachievable. It serves as a testament to the power and purpose of the human spirit.
And their story has made it to the big screen with the Disney+ debut of Rise, on Friday.
The story of the Antetokounmpo family is a tale that’s unlike any we’ve seen or heard before when you consider the hurdles they as well as their family, faced.
“When people watch this movie, I want them to feel inspired, motivated and to have faith,” Thananis told EBONY. “To make sure they...keep fighting for their dream and stay together.”
While the story has a strong basketball presence because of the brothers and what they have accomplished in the NBA, Giannis is quick to point out that there’s a lot more to the movie than just the success of the Antetokounmpo brothers in the NBA.
“Seeing the final product, it was unbelievable,” said Giannis. “It wasn’t just about basketball. It wasn’t about things we accomplished in our lives on the court. It was about my parents, you know, and the sacrifices they made back when we were little, even before us. So, I loved it.”
The Antetokounmpo brothers had no idea at the time that basketball, a game they began to play in their free time as children in Greece, would open up a world of possibilities beyond their wildest dreams.
Giannis, a two-time league MVP who was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 15th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft, and Thananis, won an NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021.
Their younger brother Kostas was part of the Los Angeles Lakers team that won an NBA title in 2020.
They are the only trio of brothers in NBA history to each be part of an NBA championship team.
The movie certainly addresses their success as basketball players, but Rise spends more time delving into the journey taken by the family to get there.
Rise also addresses the challenges the family endured with the Greek government and its people after Charles and Veronica Antetokounmpo emigrated from Nigeria to Greece, one of the more unsettling chapters in their narrative of success.
“No one just becomes a success overnight. Everyone has a story; greatness has a story,” said Dayo Okeniyi, who portrays Charles Antetokounmpo. “These are people who went through incredible trials and tribulations to become the people they are today. It’s an incredible story.”
And one of the central figures in the movie as well as in the lives of the Antetokounmpo brothers is their mother Veronica.
Yetide Badaki, who portrays Veronica Antetokounmpo in the movie, discussed how privileged she felt playing the role of such an impactful character not only in the movie but also in the lives of the Antetokounmpo brothers.
“The mother of kings,” said Badaki. “The idea of home is where the heart is; Veronica is all heart; all heart, all belief, all faith. Giannis was just talking about it, how he never saw her waver from this belief in them, a belief in the life that they would have moving forward, even through the most troubling times. It feels like a great responsibility, but it’s a great gift, one of the greatest gifts I have been given.”
Indeed, those tough times only strengthened an already Teflon-tough bond with much of the credit for keeping the family structure together, given to Veronica.
“I feel so proud, very grateful for what we have accomplished,” Veronica told Ebony.com.
When asked about how the dreams she had for her children matched the reality of what they have accomplished, she replied, “positive thinking, keep a good attitude. Never give up and believe in yourself. With love...you accomplish whatever you want to accomplish.”
And that will allow one to continue to rise against the greatest of odds—something the Antetokounmpo family knows all too well.