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- Giannis Antetokounmpo has become an MVP candidate and most people are still mispronouncing his name. Antetokounmpo is known to many as “The Greek Freak.” ESPN’s Ryan Ruocco took lessons on how to say Antetokounmpo’s name and explained how to do it correctly.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was already well known prior to this season, thanks to his crazy highlights and catchy nickname, The Greek Freak. But now that he is an emerging NBA superstar, more people are trying to say his real name, and many people are still getting it wrong.
Part of the problem is that many announcers during NBA games, highlight shows, and talk shows mispronounce the last name. Most settled on pronouncing the name the way it is spelled – which, by the way, is a challenge in and of itself.
So when Antetokounmpo was featured on the big stage during the 2016-17 NBA playoffs, some were perplexed when they heard the correct pronunciation for the first time. While they may have felt ESPN’s Ryan Ruocco was saying it wrong during the playoffs, he was actually much closer than most.
During the playoffs, Ruocco was a guest on ESPN’s “The Dan Le Batard Show,” where he explained why he knows his pronunciation is correct, how he learned the name, and the keys to saying it right.
But first, here is how Ruocco pronounces “Giannis Antetokounmpo” at both normal speed and 70% speed.
When Ruocco was asked if he felt he was pronouncing the name correctly, he was not only adamant that he was (“I am 100% sure”), but he also made a compelling case.
“I have asked [Antetokounmpo],” said Ruocco. “I have also gotten lessons from people who speak his [Yoruba] language.”
Ruocco then explained what most people get wrong about the last name.
“The difference is that the T is actually pronounced as a D and the P in the end is actually a B,” Ruocco told Le Batard.
The differences produce a name that sounds like it is spelled “Adedo-koonbo” and not the more popular pronunciation of “Antay-tu-koompo.”
As for the first name, even that is a point of contention as most feel it is pronounced “Yonnis,” and others say it “Yonnie.” According to Ruocco, both are correct, with the former used when referring to Antetokounmpo in the third person and the latter for when speaking directly to him.
Ruocco does concede that his pronunciation is not perfect. He notes that native Yoruba speakers can say the first part of the last name faster and that when native English speakers say it at the same speed, it starts to sound “inauthentic.”
Of course, we can always go to the source himself at the 0:53 mark of this video.
This post was originally published in April, 2017, and has been updated.