The Evolution of the Greek Freak

By Liam McKeone

Giannis Antetokounmpo is ready to take over the NBA (Courtesy of Wikimedia).

Giannis Antetokounmpo is ready to take over the NBA (Courtesy of Wikimedia).

There are only a few players in the NBA who truly amaze you when you see them live. Hakeem, Shaq, Jordan and LeBron are some recent examples of players who do things they simply shouldn’t be able to. LeBron was built in a factory to be as big and as fast as any person before him, Jordan could fly and Shaq and Hakeem were both huge but could move their feet like someone half their size. The next one of these superstars, these physical specimens who seem to break the laws of physics, is Milwaukee Bucks’ forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Drafted in 2013, nobody knew what they were getting with Antetokounmpo; he was a tall, skinny kid from Greece who hadn’t really played any semblance of professional basketball. All anyone knew was that his size was unlike any other. At just 18 years old, Giannis was 6 ft. 9 in. and 186 pounds, along with a wingspan of over seven feet, a huge bonus in the NBA. Add that to his absurdly huge hands (12 inches long, five inches longer than the average male), and he has the ideal measurements for a dominant NBA player.

However, it took Giannis a while to become adjusted to the league. He went through the growing pains of transitioning from a modest living in Greece to having millions at the age of 18 in the United States, as well as growing from 6-9 to 6-11 over the course of his first season. He only averaged seven points and four rebounds his first year, but how many 18-year-olds could block a jumpshot, grab the rebound, run the length of the court, and Eurostep from the three-point line for a dunk? Not very many.

Giannis gradually improved over the next year and a half, but he really took off during the 2015-2016 season, when injuries forced Bucks coach Jason Kidd to turn the ball over to Giannis full-time. Previously, Giannis had been playing the traditional small forward spot, but the switch was flipped when Kidd delegated all ball-handling duties to Giannis. His numbers jumped to 16 points a game, with six rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal to go along with it. The natural evolution of his game, combined with taking over ball-handling responsibilities, turned Giannis into a do-it-all superstar that very rarely comes along.

Now, Point Giannis has been let loose upon the league, and the results are as exciting as everyone thought they could be. While the team success of the Bucks hasn’t quite caught up to the individual success of their star player in Giannis, Giannis has the future looking bright in Milwaukee. This season, he’s averaging 24 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks, numbers that very few players have managed to reach in total this millennium. His all-around game is excellent, but a few areas still need improving. If Giannis can develop his jump shot and become a three-point threat, he’ll be impossible to guard. The sky is the limit for what he can do.



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