The Greek Freak gives a SOWI athlete the birthday of a lifetime

June 3, 2021 Blog

Athlete Kayla Badger (L) and her mom, Diana, after Giannis gifted her with his autographed shoes

As the Milwaukee Bucks prepare to take on the Brooklyn Nets in the second round of the NBA playoffs, several Special Olympics Wisconsin athletes are still reminiscing on their experiences during a magical Bucks game on April 24 this year.

Six athletes from across the Greater Milwaukee Area had the incredible honor of announcing the starting lineup in Fiserv Forum via pre-recorded videos before the Bucks defeated the 76ers 132-94.

While that awesome video kicked off the game, a chance meeting inside the Forum resulted in the birthday of a lifetime for Kayla Badger of New Berlin Special Olympics. After the game, none other than Giannis Antetokounmpo gifted Kayla with his autographed shoes that he wore during the game!

“I was super excited when I looked at the shoes and thought how special I was to get Giannis’ shoes.” – SOWI athlete Kayla Badger

The surprise was a dream come true for Kayla, who went to the game with the seemingly longshot birthday wish of Giannis giving her his shoes. But sure enough, it happened in a touching moment that was also captured on video and posted on the official Bucks Twitter account with the caption, “MVP on and off the court.”

“Kayla‘s birthday started out with awesome seats to the Milwaukee Bucks game and right before we went to our seats we ran into a special someone,” Kayla’s mom, Diana Peil said. “We asked them if they could help make Kayla’s birthday wish come true and sure enough they did.”

The gesture was all the more meaningful for Kayla because she is a HUGE Giannis fan. “I love Giannis because he’s such a great guy,” Kayla said. “I was super excited when I looked at the shoes and thought how special I was to get Giannis’ shoes.”

Kayla’s shoes she designed herself from Giannis’ customizable Nike collection

Kayla is also a big shoe fan: she already owned a pair of shoes from Giannis’ customizable Nike collection that she had designed herself. While she loves showing off the Giannis shoes she designed by wearing them about town, her new shoes – the ones actually worn by The Greek Freak himself – won’t be hitting the pavement anytime soon.

The shoes are already safely secured in a case Kayla’s parents purchased soon after the game. Next up they plan to build a shelf just for the shoes so they can be displayed prominently in the house, as they very well should be.

Giannis’ shoes in their new case

While Giannis and the Bucks are preparing for a tough challenge against a formidable Nets team, Kayla is also currently in preparation for some big competition. A few weeks after the Bucks game – and perhaps inspired by her encounter with her hero – Kayla went on to excel at the Region 8 Track Meet.

“It was super exciting to be able to do track and field again after being off for a year,” Kayla said. “I got first place in the 200-meter dash and mini javelin and second place in the 100-meter dash. I can’t wait to go to state at the end of June.”

On June 26, she’ll be among more than 400 athletes from across the state who will be competing in the modified State Track & Field Meet in Appleton after returning to action at regional events in May. She’ll be flying around the Lawrence University track chasing more gold medals. Just don’t expect her to be wearing Giannis’ size 17 shoes while doing it.


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