2017 proved to be the awakening of an unstoppable force in the National Basketball Association. Please welcome the future king of the NBA, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
First, let’s travel back to 2013, specifically, the 2013 NBA draft. This draft class was historically weak, with the top prospects being C.J. McCollum (10th overall), Victor Oladipo (2nd overall), and the infamous Anthony Bennett (1st overall). Now, a high prospect in Giannis Antetokounmpo was taken 15th overall in the draft. This is fine because now we see Giannis as a star and he is easily a first-round pick, but back in 2013, Giannis wasn’t credited with much. He played in Greece and averaged less than 10 points per game while playing in Greece’s second-tier league (the equivalent to Single-A baseball)! Yes, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is now an NBA star, played for the second-tier league and didn’t even emerge as a top player. What made him into the star player he is now?
Giannis had something that many didn’t: potential. His insane potential made him good enough to be drafted. Reports trickled into teams’ front offices saying a rail-thin, 18-year-old kid from Greece had point guard skills with a Kevin Durant size. Giannis was so much of a mystery in the draft that a writer led off one of his stories with, “ Meet Giannis Adetokunbo, the next European bust in the NBA draft.”
Giannis was drafted 15th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks and was the only player in his draft class to become an all-star (as of 2017) and one of two players to be selected to any All-NBA team (Rudy Gobert, 2017). He proved the hype and lived up to his potential. He has increased his stats each year as a player in the NBA. His PPG improved from 6.8 to 22.9, and in 2017, he led his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks in the regular season. He has skills that no one else has. Even at his height, he has incredible court vision and ridiculous point guard ball-handling skills. He can play all five positions on the basketball court, which is only comparable to Magic Johnson and LeBron James.
“He’s unbelievable,” said 2017 All-Star point guard Kemba Walker. “Every time you watch a highlight, he is doing something crazy. I saw him jumping and dunking from the free-throw line the other night. He is a special talent.” The Bucks couldn’t sit back and say they wanted him from the start, either. Bucks GM, John Hammond, says that when he visited Greece to scout Antetokounmpo, he saw a kid with great size and skills. Giannis played point guard at the time, and Hammond saw the ball-handling talent by Antetokounmpo as well. “I wish I could say we knew that he would be an All-Star at 22, but I don’t proclaim to be that smart,” Hammond says.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is undeniably an NBA star. He has shown that he can put up numbers only comparable to NBA legends, but to keep playing at the insanely high level, hard work must continue. “I just have to keep pushing myself,” Antetokounmpo says. “I am trying to learn and mature and take in everything that is going on. But I have to do the hard work; I have to be there every day. Work hard, let my teammates help me, let the Bucks help me, let the coaches help me.” Giannis is simply a beast, and this past season, he led his team to a 42-40 record, giving them the 6th seed in the East. They took a first round exit to the Toronto Raptors, led by Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry, but the future only shows more for the Bucks than a 6th seed, first round exit. “I am still growing, still trying to grow and mature,” Antetokounpo stated. “I want to help my team in any way I can, and I think for us, getting in the playoffs, that would be most important, playing in important games is the best way. I just want to keep improving. I have a lot I need to learn.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo, the 23-year old guard/forward/center from Greece will be an NBA star and future NBA legend. Watch out.