It’s been a week of firsts for Giannis Antetokounmpo. The NBA All-Star is four days removed from picking up his first league MVP trophy and is about to officially become the first European-born basketball player to get a signature Nike sneaker. He’s in his hometown of Athens, Greece, to fete his shoes to an audience of international media.

“Can I touch it?” Antetokounmpo asks, with the humility of a child asking their parents for permission, as he reaches for the sneaker on display. You’d think after the MVP-caliber season he just had, he’d be comfortable enough to brazenly pick up the sneaker that bears his own name. But instead, he’s still coming to grips with the fact that he’s reached a level that only a few elite players have.

“It’s weird, but I’m getting used to it,” Antetokounmpo says. “At first, when I saw people in my jersey, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s my name.’”

Being ordained with a signature Nike sneaker, or signature sneaker in general, is not something many NBA players achieve. Assuming you don’t go the BBB route and start your own brand, it’s an accomplishment that signifies a company is willing to invest in your career for the long term—not only because of your athletic ability, but also for your ability to inspire people (to buy stuff).

“Obviously I realize that I’m a role model now and I have to set the right example,” Antetokounmpo says. “I think guys like Magic, Larry Bird, Kobe, LeBron have set a great example for the next generation, so now I want to do the same thing.” 

Antetokounmpo’s been a Nike athlete since he was 17 years old. He had an opportunity to leave the brand in 2017, but chose to stay despite some big-time offers from other companies. During his sneaker free agency, Adidas pulled up with a truck full of Yeezys in an attempt to lure him away from Nike. Chinese brand Li-Ning reportedly had an eight-figure deal on the table. Nike’s offer to Giannis would not just include his own collection, but also the opportunity to invest back into his home.

“That means more to me than a signature sneaker,” Antetokounmpo says at one of the three outdoor basketball courts in Athens that Nike refurbished in his honor. Another of those courts is the one he and his four brothers would frequent during their childhood in the neighborhood of Sepolia (he’s broken the backboard a few times with dunks). The brand also is working in tandem with Antetokounmpo’s foundation on basketball clinics and educational initiatives in Athens.