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‘Giannis’ free spirit reminds us all of our youths and the power that our dreams can have’

Giannis Antetokounmpo first had to evolve from mythical Greek phenom to a 2013 first-round pick. Here's an inside look at how The Woj Pod's new three-part series "The Giannis Draft" traces his saga

As the 2020 NBA Draft week arrives, the concepts of teamwork and collaboration are on full display at ESPN’s campus. These concepts were once again evident when considering the small but mighty team that has brought fans “The Giannis Draft” – a three-part narrative podcast series under “The Woj Pod” umbrella, which dropped today (watch video accompaniment above, see podcast download details below).

ESPN Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski hosts the mini-series. It includes exclusive access to – and interviews with – all of the key power-players tied to the incredible story of how two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo made his journey from Athens, Greece, to the Milwaukee Bucks as the number 15 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.

“Woj,” along with ESPN senior deputy editor Cristina Daglas, senior editor Andrew Han, and production assistant Troy Farkas, comprised the proud, ambitious team that has effectively delivered the most in-depth reporting and storytelling surrounding Antetokounmpo’s NBA arrival on record.

How did “The Giannis Draft” come together?
Daglas: Woj started interviews a year ago, meticulously making his way through all of the key players, as he traveled across the country for games and various stories. And eventually, he got the big one – Giannis – for more than an hour in the bubble. I oversaw everything in an EP [Executive Producer] role of sorts, and Andrew Han produced it all with Troy Farkas, who found strong sound to complement the interviews.

Woj: A team effort

Adrian Wojnarowski tells Front Row: “Our team on “The Giannis Draft” – Cristina Daglas, Andrew Han, and Troy Farkas – absolutely carried this project for me. From the idea inception to the final edits, Cristina gave us a plan of action and helped shepherd the project through its completion. Her mark is on every element of the story. Andrew turned hours and hours of audio interviews into a compelling, three-episode story arc. Troy made the sound come alive in ways that I never imagined. When you work at ESPN, you get to work with the very best in the industry, and that was absolutely the case working together on ‘The Giannis Draft.'”

The two of them have been in the weeds on every last bit of production, and Woj and I spent a lot of time editing scripts, talking through structure, working on his tracks. It’s been a wonderfully collaborative process with a small but dedicated team. Giannis really opened up in this interview, revealing so much about his upbringing (did you know he originally wanted to be a soccer star?).

Was there a particular revelation in “The Giannis Draft” that stuck with you?
Han: When I reflect on the hours of interviews Woj conducted, one moment Antetokounmpo shares always stands out. “They gave me shoes. They gave me socks,” Antetokounmpo said. “First of all, nobody gave me socks before.”

It’s hard to fathom the difficulties Antetokounmpo and his family faced before his career in basketball, but you can hear in his voice how appreciative he is to this day for simple items like a pair of socks.

What struck you most after listening to the finished product?
Farkas: The childlike innocence that Giannis brings to the pre-draft process and his first visit to America is what makes this series special. Whether it’s looking up at the skyscrapers in New York City, jumping on the hotel bed, eating hot dogs in the street, or staring jaw-dropped at [NBA executive] Danny Ferry’s mansion, Giannis’ free spirit reminds us all of our youths and the power that our dreams can have if we just keep speaking them into existence.

To listen to “The Giannis Draft,” visit “The Woj Pod” section of ESPN.com. It is also available wherever podcasts are streamed and downloaded.

The virtual 2020 NBA Draft is Wednesday, Nov. 18, with coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. ET, exclusively on ESPN. For more information, please visit ESPN Press Room.

At the 2019 ESPYS, NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo wins the Best Male Athlete ESPY.
(Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)
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