Giannis Antetokounmpo has been the talk of the town ever since he led the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA crown in 50 years this past summer.
In a city starved for a championship, the man affectionately known as the Greek Freak delivered – in a big way. In the sixth and deciding game against the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals, Antetokounmpo scored 50 points, an impressive feat on its own but made even more stunning by the fact that the Bucks’ franchise player did so after seemingly wrecking his knee two weeks earlier during the Eastern Conference Finals, an on-court injury that left the Bucks fandom fearful that the rare chance for a title had faded into oblivion.
But Antetokounmpo, to the shock of many, returned to the court and the Bucks prevailed, against what seemed to be steep odds. The team, its superstar and fans celebrated in a way the Milwaukee has never seen.
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As is often the case, there’s more to the story, especially when it comes to Antetokounmpo. The latest look into the life of the Bucks hero comes from Zach Baron, senior staff writer at GQ. Antetokounmpo, known simply as Giannis around these parts, makes his modeling debut in the latest issue of the magazine, while the accompanying story provides many noteworthy narratives.
Here are a few:
1. Becoming a Superstar
Giannis has extreme confidence in his abilities, without a doubt, but even he never envisioned that the skinny teenager who many viewed as a “project” when the Bucks drafted him would, by age 26, become one of the most dominant players in the NBA and lead the small market Bucks to an NBA crown.
“What I am today, nobody saw it. You know why nobody saw it? Because I didn’t see it,” Giannis told GQ.
2. The Knee Injury
When Giannis fell to the floor of the State Farm Arena in Atlanta in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Hawks, he screamed in pain as he clutched his hyperextended left knee. It seemed implausible that the Bucks’ leader would take the court again during the playoffs. He did and the rest is history, but effects of the injury linger.
“My leg was the opposite way,” Giannis said. “To this day, I feel the effect, the traumatic stress. I still feel it, and I think I’m going to feel it until I die.”
3. Leaving It All on the Court
Despite his injured knee, Giannis managed to play at an extremely high level for all six games of the NBA Finals. He pushed past the injury – well past, it turns out – in leading the Bucks to an improbable championship. After one game, Giannis suffered cramping as his lips turned purple and his hands white due to dehydration. He eventually needed multiple IVs to recover.
“I’m naked, I only have my towel,” Giannis said while lying on the trainer’s table. “I ask, ‘Can you give me that trash can?’ Throw up five times.”
4. Keeping a Low Profile
Many sports superstars crave the spotlight. Not Giannis, whose seems more content to focus his attention on his family and the hardwood.
“I don’t want to be the face of the league,” he said. “I want to play great basketball. After that, if I disappear in the night, good. Don’t even talk about me, don’t even remember me. I don’t care.”
5. Moving Forward
Memories of the Bucks championship are sure to remain vivid in the minds of fans for years to come. The players have their championship rings, fans have snapped T-shirts and hats and Fiserv Forum is adorned with constant reminders of the title. But Giannis has already moved on and is laser focused on the current season.
“It’s over with. The championship is over with. Over with. Now, I’m working. In order for me to get better, I leave this championship bullshit stuff in the past,” he said.
6. Goodbye Milwaukee?
This one is sure to cause some nail biting among Bucks fans. When Giannis signed a five-year, $228 million extension with the Bucks last season, fans breathed a sigh of relief and then celebrated. They celebrated again when the Bucks won their first NBA title since 1971. But what’s next?
“One challenge was to bring a championship here and we did,” Giannis said to GQ. “It was very hard, but we did. Very, very hard. I just love challenges. What’s the next challenge? The next challenge might not be here. Me and my family chose to stay in this city that we all love and has taken care of us — for now.”