For casual basketball fans just starting to tune into the NBA, as the season resumes post-All Star break, I want to introduce you to Milwaukee Bucks rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Say it with me: An-te-to-kounm-po. It’s actually fairly phonetic, and I can assure you Giannis’s game is just as fun as his name.
To get a better idea who Antetokounmpo is as a player and person, think an unrefined 19-year old Greek Kevin Durant. Basically, the kid has a potentially transcendental physique for playing basketball. He listed at 6-foot-9, yet he has apparently grown more than an inch since he was drafted, so he’s closing in on 6-foot-11, with a 7-foot-3 (and still growing) wingspan.
Yet he runs and sees the court as well as most NBA guards, having played point guard back in Europe. He was invited to both the NBA Rising Stars Challenge and the Skills Competition, usually reserved for traditional point guards (i.e. those who are not nearly seven feet tall), during All Star Weekend. I would tell you what position he plays now, but there really isn’t a defined role for the way he plays offensively. And this isn’t even touching on his defense, where his wingspan wreaks havoc on passing lanes and unsuspecting layups alike. He also has massive hands.
No written description, however, really does the “Greek Freak,” as he has aptly been nicknamed, justice. So, please, just watch:
There seemingly isn’t a thing not within the reach of those infinitely lanky arms – literally and figuratively. While his statlines are by no means impressive right now, his mainly the clear potential that is most compelling to basketball observers. Deadspin.com also recently published a comprehensive guide to the “NBA’s Coolest Rookie” for a more detailed introduction to Giannis.
Of course he is far from completely developed as a basketball player, so the Durant comparison is mostly hypothetical at this point – he still has a long way to go. But it’s that rawness that makes him just as entertaining as any superstar, because there is a degree of unexpectedness that comes with watching him.
Yes, you’ll get the occasional rookie mistake – he is after all a 19-year old rookie in a foreign country – but that makes the conversely incredibly intelligent or athletic play that much more striking and impressive. It’s exactly the level that he is already at and the fact that we don’t exactly know where his ceiling is, that should make everyone the most excited.
Those unrefined and youthful qualities also make Antetokounmpo a joy to follow off the court. He recently joined Twitter, where a surprising proportion of his tweets revolve around video games with his brothers and his newfound infatuation with smoothies and his interviews are just wonderful.
Overall, he simply seems like a genuinely happy person excited to be living his dream, which makes sense given his inspiring path to the league.
So get on the bandwagon now, because it’s going to be a fun ride. And remember…
Guys my name is easy A-nte-to-koun-mpo..— GiannisAntetokounmpo (@G_ante34) February 4, 2014