Before he was perhaps the hottest N.B.A. star, Giannis Antetokounmpo could be found somewhere in Athens, Greece, trying to sell hats or DVDs so that he and his family could eat dinner that night. Giannis, the child of Nigerian immigrants, was born in Athens and grew up jumping from cheap apartment to cheaper apartment. His parents, along with Giannis and his three equally enormous brothers, were forced to work for whatever money they could. Even with this burden, however, the Antetokounmpo boys still found time for sports, and, at this, they truly excelled.
Giannis played all of his sports with his older brother and was primarily a soccer player. So, when Thanasis, his older brother, decided to start playing basketball, Giannis had no choice but to follow along. At first they had to split one pair of shoes between the two of them. Quickly though, they began to impress with their undeniable athletic prowess.
Soon a small Greek club called Filathlitikos picked up Giannis, helping his mother find work and the family find food. Even at this low level, Giannis could see that basketball was an opportunity for him to utilize his athleticism and competitiveness in such a way to help his family find a better life.
Giannis worked, honing his skills and learning how to best combine his enormous frame with his unique skillset. He played for two Filathlitikos teams, the men’s and the youth team. On the men’s team, he was a small forward and put up respectable numbers. On the youth team, he was a point guard and dominated, leading one of the best teams in Greece.
This kind of talent could not go unnoticed for much longer. Prior to the 2013 draft, scouts and executives flocked to Filathlitikos in order to see if it was true. Giannis went on to be selected 15th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2013 N.B.A. draft — a draft in which current G-League member, Anthony Bennett, somehow managed to be the number one overall pick to the Cavs. At least Giannis made sure that not all of the picks were absolute busts and disappointments to their fans. Thanks, Anthony.
Anyways, back to Giannis. His first season in the N.B.A. was not impressive. His team, coached by Larry Drew, finished 15-67, the lowest record that year. Giannis finished with decent stats for a rookie, nothing impressive though. The following season, Jason Kidd arrived as the new coach. To most people’s surprise, he led his team to a 41-41 record, making the playoffs as a six seed. Following this, the Bucks went 33-49 in the 15-16 season, missing the playoffs.
This season, however, began to show signs of Giannis’ true potential. Kidd, a coach who is not afraid to take some risks, transitioned Giannis, his 6’ 11” forward, into the point guard position, helping him to five triple-doubles on the season and improvement in all statistical categories.
Giannis, however, was just getting started. The 22-year-old recorded nearly 23 p.p.g. and nine r.p.g., as well as 5.5 a.p.g., while leading a Jabari Parker’s A.C.L.-less Bucks team to a 42-40 record and a playoff berth during the 16-17 season. This alone is undeniably impressive. But he keeps getting better. Through the first nine games of the 17-18 season, Giannis averaged 31 p.p.g., 10 r.p.g., and 5 a.p.g. He has had four 30+ point games and one 40+ point game, as well as five point/rebound double-doubles.
Giannis is a unicorn. He’s 6’ 11” and can rope in a rebound, run the length of the court, leap from way too far away, and drop in an incredible dunk. If this is not what the team needs, then he will play lockdown defense ending in a steal, or a block, and ultimately a bucket on the other end.
Giannis is so young, and he is so good. His ceiling is impossible to predict. He certainly has the potential, by the time he retires, to be one of the greatest of all time. For now though, he is focused on winning games and winning the M.V.P., a very attainable goal considering his performance thus far.