NBA 2K in Greece: Dean Cruickshank diary

You may remember the NBA 2K announcement of their first international cover star in Giannis Antetokounmpo – and our man Dean Cruickshank tagged along to cover the event.

Below, you can take a look at his event diary, so you can get a glimpse of how the occasion went down…

Day One: Joining NBA 2K in Greece

It’s around about 7am on a sunny morning and the journey is about to begin.

I’m sitting on the train heading to London and already free agency deals are coming in thick and fast. Chris Paul is signing a new deal with the Rockets, Paul George is re-signing with Oklahoma – shocking the NBA world. The man touted to be the next Laker has decided to remain with Russ in Oklahoma, the Instagram videos of Playoff P confirming he’s staying are all over Social Media.

The first part of the journey is over I’ve arrived at Heathrow. It still doesn’t feel real that I’m heading to Athens to be part of a very big NBA2K announcement. Check in completed and now it’s all becoming a reality. Flight boarded and the main thing on my mind is hoping that LeBron James doesn’t announce his decision while I’m in the air (Luckily he didn’t).

The second you arrive at Athens Airport you’re greeted by the beautiful sights of the mountains and the amazing Mediterranean weather. Once we got to the hotel I was stunned by the amazing entrance (I’ll admit that the air conditioning in the reception was an absolute blessing too!).

While checking in I see someone sitting on the sofa in the Lobby, I don’t give it a second thought as my gaze crosses the lobby, but as I look again I realise that it’s none other than Ronnie2K!

As a die hard NBA2K fan it was a surreal moment seeing the man himself. This is a guy who has NBA players in the palm of his hands, wanting to know what rating they are getting for the upcoming version of the game. Of course, some are happier than others, but i’m simply thrilled to get a chance to converse with a man so in touch with some of the best athletes on the planet.

It’s a quick pit-stop in the hotel room to drop off my bags before we head to the Galaxy Rooftop Bar for some food. Once you take the lift to the top, the name simply doesn’t do it justice. You’re greeted by the views of the mountains and the amazing sight of the Acropolis lit up in the distance. It’s truly a beautiful city.

Then I see some familiar faces in Mo ‘The Hoop Genius’ Mooncey, Mike Miller and Joe Hulbert from Double Clutch. We love getting a chance to network with our fellow NBA journalists and personalities from the UK. It’s almost like a giant family – which is growing week by week!

Once we head out onto the the Balcony the view just gets even better. It was a breathtakingly beautiful sight and it still doesn’t feel real at all – then comes some amazing Greek food and some even better conversations regarding the NBA – with plenty of us making some hot takes as the deals start to come through again.

A few more drinks are had and then it’s time to head for bed, well that’s what I thought at least! Turns out the second I got to my room it appears that Mr LeBron James has made his choice and is taking his crown to L.A. (that delayed going sleep for a little while, I must admit).

Day Two: The NBA 2K Event

Well you can guess what dominated conversation at breakfast the following morning – let’s say there wasn’t much else discussed other than how strong the Lakers had become courtesy of Lebron’s move.

Once food and conversation has stopped it was time to head out to see the Acropolis, between the hotel and monument you can see how proud of Giannis Antetokounmpo the Greek people are. Jerseys hanging in windows, his face on advertisements – he truly has the Greek people on his side.

The taxi pulls up we’ve arrived. The Acropolis is in sight and disappoint it certainly did not, it’s such a beautiful sight, if you ever get the chance to make the trip I would definitely recommend it. Also, the Citadel at the top is ironically the birthplace of the Goddess Nike who personifies victory.

Basketball was not far from the mind with us spotting the occasional jersey, Mo made a good call regarding the architecture though, with none of the flat roofs being converted into courts – which we’d consider doing…

Once we had cooled down and gained are composure of seeing one of the most beautiful sights in the world it was time for a traditional Greek lunch, which was superb. The food just kept on coming, I had a three-course dinner before but I think this was more like a 30-course dinner, and all of it was beautiful and fresh.

Once back at the hotel it was time to get ready for the main reason of the whole trip, the unveiling of the NBA 2K19 cover athlete.

Once ready, it was time to head down and join the rest of the global media in the garden for some drinks ahead of the event. In a nice touch, songs from previous editions of the NBA2K franchise were being blasted out (it got me thinking of how last year’s MyCareer player earned that MVP award in their second season, what a player I could’ve been, eh?).

Then the time had arrived and we hurried into the Conference room. It had been turned into a hooper’s dream, NBA 2K graphics were everywhere and the slogan for the game ‘They Will Know Your Name’ plastered all over. On the stage, up came Ronnie 2K and we were live across the world. After some short pleasantries he then announced that it would be none other than Giannis Antetokounmpo who would be adorning the cover of the standard version of 2K19 (although we did figure this considering the event’s location!). What came next was a beautiful moment – a video narrated by Giannis’ mother Veronica, followed by the man himself.

Being as funny and charismatic as you would imagine, Giannis started by talking about how amazing it was for him to be on the cover, he went on to talk about what it meant and even got in a quip claiming he deserved to have a rating of ‘101’. The star was open to questions, but one which everyone wanted to know the answer too came from Ronnie.

‘What do you make of Lebron’s decision to head to LA?’ Giannis answered with pure class.

He gave his view, saying that he respected his choice and that he did it for his family, which is something that resounds with Giannis. You can tell by the words running alongside his face on the new cover as to how much he values those who helped him become the man he it today. His brothers even get a special place on the cover too. He was also quite open in admitting that he was glad he now only had to play against twice in the regular season (I agree with you there!).

On top of this, we also got a first look at how the Bucks star would look in the new game. It’s very much an amazing visual step up from the already realistic franchise. Giannis was particularly happy that they got some of his facial hair in this year. You need to get that facial trim in!

Once the event wrapped up the assembled media left the conference room and Giannis stayed to take some photos of the Cover with his family.

The media were then treated to some more amazing food and a photo booth fitted with the NBA2K19 cover. (2K know how to look after us, that’s for sure!)

2K NBA Giannis Antetokounmpo

2K NBA Giannis Antetokounmpo

Then it was time to sit down and have an Interview with Mr Ronnie Singh and hear his views on the series and how it feels to be known worldwide as the face of NBA 2K. He’s a very charismatic man and still as passionate about the game as he was at the beginning when Allen Iverson was donning the cover.

We then headed for even more food, all whilst having the likes of Woj and Shams on Twitter notifications (like I’m sure all of you do). We saw the likes of Rajon Rondo joining LeBron in L.A. along with Lance Stephenson and Javale McGee, thinking that the NBA was seeing some interesting moves. The shocks kept coming too, as whilst we were enjoying a drink looking out to the Greek mountains we see DeMarcus Cousins had signed with the Warriors, the NBA now had a team of all-stars rocking up for Golden State – we were all totally stunned.

Day Three: Ending the NBA 2K event

The following morning the DeMarcus Cousins news was still very much a topic of conversation. Plenty of Warriors chatter followed, but it was time to head to Sepolia to see the basketball court at which Giannis honed his skills.

In a residential location in Athens, the second you arrive you’re stunned by how amazing it is. I had seen pictures of it before, but they don’t do it justice at all. Then came the great part, we had a basketball so it was only right to do one thing have a quick pick up game! Seeing as it was at the peak of the day and 35+ Degrees we certainly tired pretty quickly. I have to admit I missed a lot of shots I’d normally bank on making, but when I drained my first three pointer it was special to know exactly what court I had just done it on.

As we sat down for a drink the power of Giannis and his influence was evident as a young Greek boy who must have been just seven or eight started to put up shots, practice his Euro-step and shoot some fade away jumpers. It was a humbling moment to know that one man was inspiring the next generation, one shot at a time.

A massive thankyou to, 2K UK especially Matt and Gem & NBA 2K for the chance to be involved in such a thing. #TheyWillKnowYourName

Luke Hatfield is the creator and editor of BouncyOrangeBall, with an extensive knowledge of the NBA and basketball in general.

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