The Agada Brothers step into the shoes of the Antetokounmpo brothers in “Rise” on Disney+
If there’s one word that describes the story of the Antetokounmpo family, it’s impossible. When you watch “Rise” — the Disney+ movie based on Giannis’ life — it puts “impossible” into context.
His parents, Charles and Veronica, left Lagos in 1991 in search of a better life. They immigrated to Athens, Greece. They only brought their son, Thanasis, with them. They left his newborn brother, Francis, behind with his grandparents because of the grueling journey they were about to face.
Eventually, they started a family. Giannis, Kostas and Alex were born. And, as a family, they made a living. Charles worked odd jobs left and right trying to work his way up to becoming a documented Greek citizen despite being denied at every turn. Meanwhile, Veronica and the boys sold trinkets, glasses and watches to tourists all day on the streets just to try and get by.
The four brothers slept in one bed. Their parents slept on the couch. They had to take quick showers to conserve water. They made choices between paying rent on time or having a car to get around.
That all seems unreal, but what’s even more unreal is the fact that Giannis first picked up a basketball in 2008. By 2013, he was a first-round pick in the NBA draft. He changed his entire family’s lives with one decision. That’s incredible.
It’s hard to put yourself in those shoes where you’ve got to make those sorts of choices for literal survival. And, not just for yourself, but for your family. I cannot fathom it.
So instead of trying, I talked to a couple of people who can — at least, in a sense.
Brothers Uche and Ral Agada were absolute stars in “Rise.” Uche played the role of Giannis and Ral played Thanasis and the two absolutely crushed it.
Playing the Antetokounmpo brothers is hard. It’s emotional. “I didn’t know how hard it was for them being undocumented,” Ral Agada told For The Win in our conversation together.
Through all the struggles, all the hardships and all the obstacles, the family somehow still persevered. And now they’re thriving.
The Agada brothers talked to me about what it was like to step into those shoes for a minute and how this all came together. What follows below is our conversation.
This conversation has been edited for accuracy and brevity