One of the great joys of this NBA season has been watching Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, a 19-year-old rookie known as âThe Greek Freakâ for his incredible athleticism and physical stature. While this Bucks season is almost entirely gruesome, Antetokounmpo has given reason for hope via his penchant for highlights and the sheer joy of watching a talented player find their way in real time. It’s far from a finished product, but that’s part of what makes it so fun to watch.
Yet as a foreign teenager who only caught the NBA’s attention shortly before last June’s draft, Antetokounmpo is also fascinating with his experiences off the pitch. In a blog post for the Greek website Sport 24, Antetokounmpo detailed some of the most amazing things that have happened to him this season (translated via Brew Hoop, headlines in bold ours):
It’s a wonderful feeling to have the confidence of Coach Drew. I see in his eyes, when he talks to me, how much he trusts me. Everyone in the team trusts me and wants me to improve, game after game. I feel like I’m improving, I need to be more consistent. I try, through matches and training, to improve myself. I realize that game after game, my contribution to the team is becoming more versatile. I try to do whatever I can on the floor. Play defense for me and my teammates. Fill in the gaps and gaps and, at the same time, engage in games with determination. I am interested in growing, game by game, and continually learning something new. Learn from my mistakes, but also from the mistakes of others. I feel like I’m improving, but I need to be more consistent in my production. […]
For me, the best gift is the NBA. What I am experiencing is incredible. Even now when I walk on the ground I think it’s not real. Until seven months ago I played in ESKA and A2 [read: Greek lower divisions] and now I’m in the NBA. If it’s not a gift, then what is it? […]
I did however receive an expensive gift from my teammate Larry Sanders, who gave me a pair of Gucci shoes. I told him he shouldn’t have given me such an expensive gift. He said, “You are my recruit and I have to take care of you.” Maybe he spoils me so that I throw him more lobs! […]
A really great moment for me was when we traveled to LA to play against the Lakers. Unfortunately, Kobe didn’t play because he got injured again. From the second I set foot in Staples Center, I was looking for it. I wanted to see what he looked like up close. How tall is it, how does it move. We are talking about one of the best players of all time. When the match started, in a time out, I saw him on the bench. He had that killer look, even though he was in his “civilian” clothes on the bench. I also have this look! Nah, just kidding!
I didn’t have time to see someone famous on the side court, but I was almost seriously injured. Shortly before the game was over, and when I was in the air for a rebound, Williams pushed me [Greek expression, you get the point]. I fell very hard on the ground. Everyone asked me if I was okay. It hurt a lot and I tried not to show it. On the bench Coach Drew came over and asked me, “Are you going to shoot the free throws or do I have to send someone else?” I said to him, “Of course I am, who else?” […]
I am in awe of all the fuss around my name in Greece. I did not expect that. I watch, via NBA Greece, everything that is written for me, and I also read the comments and posts on my Facebook profile. I feel great but also quite uncomfortable, because I’m not used to attracting attention. I hope my presence here will motivate more Greek players to come to the NBA. I hope the next one will be my brother Thanasis and then my younger brothers, Kostas and Aleksandros! It’s gonna be fun. I think there are young people who can play here, like Haralampopoulos. I believe him.
It’s fair to wonder if Antetokounmpo is being too positive about an experience involving the Bucks playing with an NBA record of 7-27, but it’s also a very enjoyable read. His words present his first season as both exciting and heartbreaking, full of new experiences that could be called dreams come true. Antetokounmpo has new friends, received expensive shoes as gifts, and saw Kobe Bryant in person. What more could a teenager want?
It stands to reason that at some point these events will become more familiar and Antetokounmpo will wish for a few more victories. For now, however, his take on NBA life has more than a small commonality with the experience of watching the rookie’s exciting game. With Antetokounmpo, everything is new and different. He’s amazing to watch in part because we don’t know what he’ll do next.
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