Pero Antic – Macedonia’s new global Icon

He has become a global icon for Macedonia and a cult figure for Atlanta Hawks fans – Pero Antic is one of the stories of the NBA season.

In July 2013 it was announced that Pero Antic had signed for the Hawks becoming the first Macedonian basketball player in the NBA. That night I went to a cracked cement court in a village nestled in southern Macedonia to shoot some hoops – the news on everyone’s lips.

But no-one on that court could have envisaged of what was about to come.

Since then Antic has become a key member of the Hawks’ success this season – becoming a regular for the injured Al Horford while capturing the dreams of 2 million people in his home nation, and thousands of Macedonians world-wide.

The country, struggling economically in the midst of the Balkans, has a new modern day hero. Long gone are the achievements of Darko Pancev – Antic is the Macedonian that kids look up to today.

Born in Skopje, Antic does not look like your typical hero. He’s bold, has a beard and is covered in tattoos – including the Macedonian flag chiseled on his chest in grey clouds. He’s look has led fans to resemble him to Chicago Bulls star Carlos Boozer.

Antic’s ability to open the offence court – shooting three’s for fun and his aggressive defence makes him a serious candidate for the NBA Rookie All-Star game, at the age of 31. And it’s not like the basketball community haven’t noticed – the NBA currently rank him the fourth best rookie this season.

The campaign to see Antic at All-Star weekend has brought upon an online fan campaign, Dear Shaq & Chuck, please select Pero Antic for the All-star game. The Facebook page now has almost 6000 likes.

Unfortunately on Thursday afternoon those hopes were severely dashed with the Hawks announcing Antic will be out for the next two to four weeks with a stress fracture in his foot. Before that Antic averaged 12 points and seven rebounds in his past three games including shooting the winning free-throws at Orlando.

Antic has transformed himself from a star to an icon. He is now a global representative for Macedonians, which is nothing to take lightly for anyone to have on their shoulders for their nation.

Macedonian fans have flocked to support Antic from city to city – even when he sit’s out full games. Even then, the two-time Euroleague Champion with Olympiakos, does all he can to thank the fans – taking photos and passing on kind greetings.

Speaking in an interview with atlallday.com, United Macedonia Diaspora President Meto Koloski labelled Antic  as “an excellent ambassador for Macedonia and represents what Macedonia has to offer to the world”.

His success with Atlanta showcases that his performance at EuroBasket 2011, alongside Bo Macalebb to a shock fourth place finish beating hosts Lithuania and former European Champions Greece along the way, was no fluke.

Antic’s impact so far in the NBA saw him named one of Atlanta’s Creative Loafing “20 people to watch in 2014” – a testament to his on-court performance and iconic status off it.

Pero Antic is an inspiration to a nation growing in a rapid globalising world, and for that I thank him and wish him all the luck upon returning from injury.

First published on former blog on January 26 2014.