#34. The “Greek Freak”. The reigning NBA MVP. The long, athletic, relentless finisher that will drive down the lane and jam it over the most daunting of defenders. Giannis Antetokounmpo. Much like in his MVP season of 2018-2019, the Freak has been terrorizing the league during the Bucks’ 2019-2020 1st place run. However, Giannis wasn’t always the chiseled “Greek God” that we see before us today.
When Giannis was drafted, not a lot of Bucks fans really knew much about the young Greece-born Nigerian man. At that time as Bucks fans, we were all trained to think that this was another ill-advised pick used on a player who may as well have been from Mars. For a lot of Bucks fans, guys like Yi Jianlian and Joe Smith came to mind immediately. The recent history of bad draft picks for Milwaukee at that time was far too familiar. For all we knew, Giannis was just another who would fizzle out and be on a different team in a short few years.
However, Bucks fans exhaled when Giannis actually took the court. Antetokounmpo showed glimpses early on of the MVP that he is today. Giannis’ body type may have changed over the course of his career, but the intense passion for the game was always there. Thank goodness that Giannis has shown the Bucks fans and the NBA world just how special of a player he actually is.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was drafted 15th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2013 NBA Draft. He made his NBA debut on October 13th, 2013 as a skinny, bright eyed 18 year old.
In his first season with the Bucks (2013-2014), Giannis averaged 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in the 77 games he participated in. His defensive presence was felt as well as he blocked opponents shots 61 times, leading all rookies.
Antetokounmpo made an apprearance at All-Star weekend as well in his rookie campaign. He dropped nine points, grabbed two rebounds, and dished out two assists in the Rising Stars challenge across from fellow rookies Victor Oladipo and Steven Adams. At the end of the season, Giannis was named to the NBA All-Rookie 2nd team.
For the next few seasons, Giannis continued to develop his game under then head coach Jason Kidd. Kidd was an integral part of turning Giannis into a “point forward” of sorts. If not for the belief in Giannis’ ability to run the offense and handle the ball, Antetokounmpo might not have turned into the player that he is today.
Giannis’ scoring and contributions steadily improved to the point where he was named an NBA Eastern Conference All-Star starter for the first time in 2017. At 22 years, 74 days old, Giannis became the youngest player in Bucks history to start in an NBA All-Star game. In addition, Giannis became the first NBA All-Star from Greece. Antetokounmpo led the Eastern Conference team with 30 points in the game.
In the 2017-2018 season opener against the Boston Celtics, Giannis put together a very strong performance with 37 points and 13 rebounds and led the Bucks to the 108-100 win. Over the course of that season, Giannis notched 27 consecutive games with 20 points and 5 rebounds. The Freak was the first to conquer this feat since the “Diesel”, Shaquille O’Neal back in the 2000-2001 season.
On March 17th, 2018, Giannis scored a career-high 52 points against the Philadelphia 76ers. He also added in 16 rebounds in that losing effort. He followed that up a couple of weeks later with a 45 point effort once again against the 76ers. This time, the Bucks got the win and clinched the Eastern Conference’s #1 seed.
Giannis’ 2018-2019 run was simply magical. He averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 1.5 steals over 72 games played. In the process, Giannis shot 57% from the field which is a career high.
Giannis went on to win the 2019 NBA MVP award over James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Paul George who was then a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Until this past season, the Milwaukee Bucks MVP drought spanned 44 seasons. The last MVP winner that the Bucks had was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who won that crown three times in the four seasons spanning from 1970 to 1974.
Entering His Prime
Giannis is dominating the league. His shooting form and confidence have improved, and the three pointers have been falling at a respectable percentage during the course of the 2019-2020 season. He is already the reigning MVP, but it seems like he is just scratching the surface of his full potential. Long reign the “Greek Freak”.
For our other MVP Spotlights, check below!
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