Greek Cafe Holds Pre-Dawn Watch Party to Celebrate Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks Win

A cafe in Greece, where NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo stopped by as a teenager before practice, held a pre-dawn watch party to see his Milwaukee Bucks win the championship in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the Associated Press reported.

A dozen fans gathered to watch the game with Yiannis Tzikas, who owns the Kivotos Cafe, that began at 4 a.m. local time and saw the Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns 105-98 to win their first title since 1971. Just before the game's end, Tzikas set out glasses for celebratory champagne.

"This is Giannis' moment. He earned it and we're proud of him," Tzikas told AP.

Antetokounmpo grew up a few blocks from the cafe, located in Sepolia, a part of greater Athens, and comes by the cafe whenever he is back in Greece, Tzikas said.

"He was always simple, humble and polite, and when he grew up, he never forgot where he started," Tzikas said.

Antetokounmpo scored 50 points in the game and was named the series MVP.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Giannis Antetokounmpo
A cafe in Greece held a pre-dawn watch party to see Giannis Antetokounmpo play in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. In the photo, Antetokounmpo (34) of the Milwaukee Bucks goes up for a shot against Deandre Ayton (22) of the Phoenix Suns during the second half at Fiserv Forum on July 20, 2021, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Justin Casterline/Getty Images

"It's over. No one can turn this game now," Tzikas said just before the game's end, his hands trembling slightly as he popped the champagne cork.

Antetokounmpo used to grab a sandwich and juice box at the cafe on his way to basketball practice as a teenager in the old factory town.

In the dark of early Wednesday, Tzikas opened up to catch the game and watch the "Greek Freak" lead the Bucks to their first title in 50 years.

Antetokounmpo finished with 14 rebounds and five blocked shots.

Tzikas handed out drinks to a dozen fans who watched the game with him.

Supporters, friends and old acquaintances in Sepolia sat glumly through the first half as Phoenix led. The crowd came to life as the sun came up.

"At the start of the season, we didn't expect this, but after the [Bucks] turned the finals around, we could see it coming," said Kyriacos Hager, who was wearing Giannis' No. 34 jersey. "[Antetokounmpo] has brought back sporting role models to this generation. He's no longer Giannis from Sepolia, he's Giannis of the entire world, an inspiration to a lot of people."

Named for Noah's Ark, Tzikas' Cafe looks as if it has stood still for decades, with beige tiles, dark wood and laminate counters and panels, with an assortment of liquor bottles next to a coffee machine—and a wall of framed memorabilia from the Antetokounpmo family, autographed jerseys and basketballs from the Bucks and the Greek national team.

Antetokounmpo grew up with his basketball co-star brothers, Thanasis, Kostas and Alex, and their parents from Nigeria, who gave their four boys Greek names.

Tzikas said Giannis had not changed with fame.

"He had a lot against him. He was poor and he was a different color than the rest of us and he made it....He doesn't owe anyone anything, it was all him and his family. He believed in his dream and he made it happen," he said.

After the game ended, Greece Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted: "Incredible Giannis! Greeks everywhere celebrate!"

Greek Cafe Celebrates Bucks Win
Cafe owner Yiannis Tzikas and his wife, Kaiti Drimba, pour champagne into plastic glasses after the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA title, in the Sepolia district of Athens, Greece, on July 21, 2021. Derek Gatopoulos/AP Photo