Basketball fans love to compare. Kobe Bryant couldn’t just be Kobe Bryant; he had to be “the next Michael Jordan”. Any European-born player over 7-feet tall with a jump shot is going to be called “the new Dirk Nowitzki.” It’s just the nature of the sport, we love to draw comparisons between what we’re seeing now and what we’ve seen before.
Well then let me ask you this: who does Giannis Antetokounmpo remind you of? Go ahead and think about it, I’ll wait…
If you said anything, then I can assure you that you’re wrong. Because there is no answer and there is no comparison. In a sport that’s existed for over a century, we’re actually somehow seeing the first of a kind.
The player so accurately dubbed “The Greek Freak”, for his unfathomable build and athleticism, is 22 years old. In his fourth season in the league, the 7-footer (he’s listed at 6-foot-11, but that’s questionable) made his first NBA All-Star game and became the first player in league history to finish in the top 20 in every major statistical category. That’s a level of versatility that LeBron James, Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson haven’t achieved. Let me remind you again this kid is 22 years old.
A player like this should not be allowed to exist; it flat out doesn’t add up. It doesn’t make sense that a 7-footer can be that fast. It doesn’t make sense that a 7-footer can jump that high. It doesn’t make sense that a 7-footer is that athletic and can move the way he does. Not to mention he’s an excellent finisher at the net, already has a dangerous jump shot, can defend any position on the court and lock his man down, and has the court vision of an elite-level point guard.
He’s Jason Kidd’s mind in the body of David Robinson. He’s Scottie Pippen if you loaded him into Photoshop and stretched the image out to the point where it looks distorted. He’s the 2017 edition of Wilt Chamberlain entering the league in 1959.
This postseason marks Giannis’ first foray into the NBA playoffs, where his sixth-seed Milwaukee Bucks are facing off against the older, more experienced, and higher-ranked third-seed Toronto Raptors. It’s still to be seen how the Bucks will fare, but The Greek Freak’s impact has already been felt.
One play in particular stands out as a moment that defines him as a player. While LeBron James is famous for the chase-down block and many other players specialize in swatting their opponents shot attempts, Giannis always takes things a step further. Much like the rest of his game, he did something I’ve never seen before. In a display of mind-blowing athleticism during Game 3 of their opening round series, he block an opponent’s shot with his freakin’ elbow!
It’s unlikely that the Bucks will go very deep in this year’s playoffs, but that’s alright. It’s not their time yet, but it will be in the very near future. I’ll remind you again that this is still just a 22-year old kid we’re talking about. That’s the scary part. We haven’t seen this much potential in a player in a long, long time. He’s going to be capable of doing a lot of things we never thought possible and be the answer to a heck of a lot of trivia questions. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s name will be followed by “first player to…” on a lot more than one occasion.
I just feel bad for players in future generations that are going to be compared to him.
Photo Cred: Creative Commons