Philadelphia, PA – Greek flags waved from the rafters to the court last night at the Wells Fargo Center. Greek Heritage Night brought out nearly a thousand Greek-Americans to celebrate their culture, support for their hometown team the Sixers, and to see a rising NBA star, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The big question before the game was, would Gianni still show up?
Now in its fourth year, the annual Greek Heritage Night sponsored by the PGBL, is scheduled around the Milwaukee Bucks visit Philadelphia that would feature the pride of Hellenes around the world, the Greek-Freak. It’s arguably the main reason folks attend. Greek Americans love their Sixers, but there’s a great sense of joy when Gianni comes out and addresses the crowd in Greek. It’s the knock-out punch of the evening that brings the crowd to a frenzy and brings on that sense of pride as Greeks.
But on this night, it was not to be. The Bucks released a statement Saturday morning which explained: “By not playing in Saturday’s game at Philadelphia and Monday’s home game vs. Phoenix, Antetokounmpo will have eight days without playing in a game, using that time to receive treatment.”
It may have made a difference in another city, but the Greeks of Philadelphia came anyway. They were rewarded with a wonderful evening, that featured a great basketball game, Greek dancing and the Sixers own Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Two dance groups, one from Lancaster, known as Zito, the other from St. George Greek Orthodox church in Media, kicked off the evening before the game with center court performances. Greek fans lined the perimeter of the court and snapped up the pride-filled moments as each troupe performed.
Following the National Anthem, the fans watched the battle between the Sixers and the Bucks heated up. While the game was close, you couldn’t help wondering what the outcome would have been, had the Greek Freak been present. Surely a few cheers and yells were missed as well. But no matter, the show went on, and the Sixers would prevail.
When the game ended, Greeks made their way down to the court for the annual post-game fun hour, where they traditionally got to meet Gianni, shoot a few pictures and shoot around the court. The big question of the night was still being discussed and asked by many. Would Gianni show up for this part?
Instead, the Sixers sent out Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot who had big shoes to fill for the night, and he did not disappoint. Luwawu-Cabarrot is a French professional basketball player who was selected 24th overall by the 76ers in the 2016 NBA draft. TLC, as he’s known, charmed the audience, when introduced by Louie Karas, one of the Philadelphia Greek Basketball League Presidents. Karas, jokingly said, TLC is 10% Greek. It brought on smiles and laughter from both the crowd and TLC who then talked about Gianni and the Sixers.
Shortly after, TLC made a point to sign autographs for the kids and take photos. As he was exiting, TLC made an extra effort to sit and talk with Greek American Sixers fan Vincent Proietto who was sidelined on crutches. TLC shook his hand shared a few thoughts and signed Vincents cast before waving to the crowd one more time. TLC made this night extra special for me. This was very exciting. I will keep this cast forever”, said Vincent.