Feb 24, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. The Bucks defeated the Sixers 130-110. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent Appreciation: Giannis Antetokounmpo


 

We’re going to do things a little differently this time because it’s the Milwaukee Bucks. Yeah, any NBA team has a chance to beat any NBA team, but the 13-54 ‘Wiggins wishers’ aren’t going to pull this one off. If they do, I’ll declare my own free agency eligibility. Instead of a preview, I offer you a brief chance to familiarize yourself with the NBA’s most likable rookie. It’s difficult for people to know your name when you play in Milwaukee, and even more difficult when it’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.

 

 

The 19 year old ‘Greek Freak’ was 6’9” at the time of the 2013 NBA draft (selected 15th overall), but has since eclipsed 6’10” and he’s a shooting guard. Imagine if Nicolas Batum were a few inches taller, had hands like catcher’s mitts, and came off the bench for Wesley Matthews. That’s Antetokounmpo. As you could guess, at 19, he needs some polishing, but his physical tools raise his ceiling past the roof. The kid is built for basketball.

 

 

Beyond that, he’s an incredibly charismatic young man. He doesn’t care that he plays in Milwaukee, he just cares that he plays. He has the support of his family, and he supports them. Antetokounmpo once sent all the money he had back to Greece and then began running from his home to the Bradley center for a game because he had no money left for cab fare. Some fans pulled over when they recognized him, and he didn’t hesitate to climb into the backseat of their Honda Fit for a ride. How cool is that?

Antetokounmpo is a man of the people inside the arena as much as outside. He is the reason Milwaukee has fans at all this year (except for the 3 or 4 tortured diehards). Don’t worry; he’s not enough of a threat to cause concern in Portland tonight, but that won’t last long. He comes off the bench for now, but has shown that with starting minutes he is capable of double-digit points, double-digit rebounds, and a handful of blocks—just rarely all at once yet. He plays heavily into Milwaukee’s future, and the fans love it.

 

 

So whether you trek out to the Moda Center with the cheapest tickets of the season in hand or watch the potential massacre from the comfort of your couch, keep an eye out for the plucky, young dynamo. It’s healthy to step outside the Rose City bubble from time to time and appreciate the NBA garden as it grows. You may already recognize Antetokounmpo from your own basketball fanaticism, the occasional internet forum, or even NBA All-Star weekend if your memory is good, but you have the opportunity to watch him for real tonight at 7:00 p.m. PST.

 

 

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