Giannis Antetokounmpo ended his 2016-2017 season on a high note, winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. He was also selected to the NBA All-Star team for the first time in his career. This came as no surprise as he led his entire team, the Milwaukee Bucks, in points, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals. Antetokounmpo is only the fifth player in NBA history to do so, the others being Dave Cowens, Scottie Pippen, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James. It is an impressive list that the only 22-year-old has joined.
Antetokounmpo has continued rolling this season. He has led his team in the aforementioned categories. He has also come out with such a hot start that he leads the entire league in scoring, averaging almost 35 points per game through Milwaukee’s first six games. This includes a career-high 44-point game in a victory over the Portland Trail Blazers Oct. 21 and a 37-point, 13-rebound game in a victory over the Eastern Conference runner up the Boston Celtics Oct. 18.
Antetokounmpo’s spectacular game against the Trail Blazers ended with a steal and fast-break dunk to put the Bucks ahead. Then he blocked Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic to seal the win for the Bucks.
Antetokounmpo’s dominance comes from a deadly combination of attributes and skill. The 6’11” lanky forward has a 7’0” wingspan, the same frame as former three-time defensive player of the year and future Hall of Famer Dwight Howard.
Antetokounmpo combines his gigantic size with guard-like speed and handling and Jordan-like jumping ability to make him virtually impossible to guard in the open court. That’s not all.
Giannis consistently uses his basketball IQ to position himself on the floor so that anytime he touches the ball he’s a legitimate threat and punishes any team playing lazy interior defense. His scoring ability is combined with his great court vision to find open teammates for assists.
The way Antetokounmpo can use his length to block shots and get steals on defense makes him one of the better defensive players in the league. If he can ever get a consistent three-point shot, he may actually be impossible to handle. Most wouldn’t have expected this meteoric rise from his beginnings in the NBA.
Antetokounmpo and three of his four brothers were born and raised in Athens, Greece after his parents moved there from Lagos, Nigeria. His parents struggled to find work, and he and his brothers had to sell watches and fruit on the streets of Athens to for extra money.
Antetokounmpo began playing basketball at age 12 and by age 14 was on the youth squad of Greece’s professional Filathlitikos team. He was drafted in 2013 as a high-ceiling 18-year-old international prospect by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Obviously the risk payed off for Milwaukee, as Antetokounmpo is on pace to be one of the greatest players in franchise, if not league, history.
Antetokounmpo’s hot start is not a surprising one after his 2016 season, but if he keeps his current pace, he will remain as the frontrunner in the MVP race this season. If the young star continues to play at this level, he could end his career in keeping with some of the greatest players of all time.