Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the biggest, most popular stars in the NBA. He led his team to the 2021 title, was named Finals MVP that year, and has been named league overall MVP twice. Yet the 29-year-old, who was raised in Greece, has never been back to his parents homeland of Nigeria.
Ugo: A Homecoming Story is a new documentary short from WhatsApp that chronicles the star’s first journey to Nigeria, seeing, touching, and feeling a country, culture, and family members he’d only experienced from afar. Directed by Rick Famuyiwa (Dope, The Mandalorian, The Wood), the doc follows Antetokounmpo through markets, cities, and beaches, and is intercut with insights from Nigerian artists and designers, among others, into the country’s unique culture.
In one memorable scene, Antetokounmpo gets his van to stop so he can hop out in the middle of busy Balogun Market and barter with a vendor for a replica of his own Milwaukee Bucks jersey.
Antetokounmpo has been a brand partner with WhatsApp since 2022 when he starred in the messaging app’s first-ever global campaign. Back then, he told Fast Company about his longstanding ties to the product. When he first came to the United States from Greece to play in the NBA, he came alone, and WhatsApp was his lifeline to keep in touch with his family, friends, and loved ones. “It allowed me to connect with them, and it was a very big part of my life,” Antetokounmpo said.
The film is minimally branded, with just a handful of nods to the messaging product. In a few instances, Antetokounmpo can be seen video messaging on WhatsApp with his family, as well as sharing photos. One subtle touch is two small check marks that appear in the bottom right of each film title introducing new scenes, in a nod to the same check marks that indicate a WhatsApp message has been seen or read. It continues WhatsApp brand work highlighting its role in keeping people connected, in particular the diaspora around the globe.
It’s been a busy week for Antetokounmpo off the court. The NBA star announced his newest business venture, Improbable Media, with former ESPN analyst Jay Williams. The company’s first major project is a full-length feature doc about his life story launching February 19 on Prime Video called, Giannis: The Marvelous Journey.