Among NBA star players, Giannis Atetokounmpo often is thought of as one of the best. Disney executives saw more of him being the best off the court as well, and decided to give him the opportunity to tell of his “rise” to greatness in their newest film on Disney+.
“Rise” is a biographical film about Antetokounmpo’s early life with his Nigerian family growing up in Greece, the traumatic events that surrounded their immigration process, and how his humble love with basketball moved to being drafted by the NBA.
“I was approached by Disney in 2018 because they knew a little bit of my story, but wanted to learn more about life outside the NBA and how we came to be,” Antetokounmpo said. “We are who we are because of our parents.”
Added Giannis’ brother Thanasis (who also plays in the NBA), “You know when your parents say that you should see what we had to go through when we raised you? Now we get to see it on the screen, and it’s pretty emotional.”
Antetokounmpo’s parents played a vital role in Giannis and his brother’s upbringing, making sure that their faith and dedication to family be the steady rock when everything in their life seemed to be shaky.
“But with God all things are possible,” said mother Veronica Antetokounmpo.
As for young actors that got to play both Giannis and Thanasis in the film, they came by way of another real-life sibling connection. After posting on Twitter that they were making a film and needed someone who looked like him to audition, Giannis found Uche Agada, a student who had never acted before and thought him to be the perfect person to play him.
Uche also had a brother and thought he’d play Giannis well, and ended up getting his role, too. “They both studied my behavior and can actually hoop!,” said Antetokounmpo.
However, this movie is much more than just a movie about basketball. According to screenwriter Arash Amel, it’s a universal story of overcoming. “It’s a modern tale of triumph over adversity where faith and family are first, and basketball weaves it all together,” he said.
Echoed director Akin Omotoso, “I follow basketball, especially African players. Antetokounmpo’s story is one for us all knowing that this type of success is rooted in good people who can do great things for one another.”
“Rise” is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.