Photo by Howie Magner
The growth of Giannis Antetokounmpo is the undisputed highlight in an otherwise dim Milwaukee Bucks season. Thought to be a multiyear project when drafted, he’s progressed faster and further than anyone expected, forcing the Bucks to rework their Grecian formula.
Word came down this morning from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Bucks are close to putting Giannis into their starting lineup. And at just 19 years old, the kid from Greece can’t even celebrate with a beer and ouzo chaser.
Throughout his rapid development, Giannis has served up the perfect balance between professionalism and wide-eyed innocence. For a taste of it, check out one of Giannis’ blog entries, as shared by the fine folks at BrewHoop.com. Dive about halfway into that comment section, and you’ll see a story told by JaneG about the time she gave Giannis a ride to the Bradley Center. It’ll warm your heart on a cold Milwaukee day.
My favorite interaction with Giannis happened over the summer, when he was out meeting fans at the Wisconsin State Fair. Less than two months after he was drafted, many of those fans were already wearing T-shirts with Antetokounmpo stretched far across their shoulders.
Away from the crowds, I chatted with then-18-year-old Giannis for some 10 minutes about his whirlwind transition to life in the United States. “It’s a little bit crazy,” he said, which was surely a little bit of an understatement.
He spoke of how he wanted to bring his family to the United States, which remains a work in progress. He spoke of having no expectations for the coming season other than to work hard. “As hard as you work every day, then you’re going to go to the next level, because every day you’re going to learn something.”
But the one thing that really struck me was how good his English was, and I asked him how this came to be. “It’s not so good,” was his humble retort. “My tongue is a little bit tight now.” But he figured living in Milwaukee would loosen it up even more.
He credited his language skills to watching English movies with Greek subtitles and Greek movies with English subtitles. So I asked him what his favorite movie was. And Giannis gave, in all seriousness, a prince of an answer.
“Coming to America. Eddie Murphy.”
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