And it feels so good.
Nearly from the start, Milwaukee sports fans have been groomed to not expect to have nice things – at least not for long. One ascendant star after another has left for bigger markets, conditioning us to dread this critical juncture in Giannis Antetokounmpo’s career.
And dread it we have. The NBA fosters an unusually intense industry of player movement speculation, and we winced as drooling fan bases pined for the small-market two-time MVP and posted images of Giannis photoshopped into the uniforms of the Warriors, Knicks, Rockets and even, preposterously, Lakers.
But it’s not winning this community game of one-upmanship that has us feeling over the Polish Moon right now. It’s not even the unfinished business feeling of falling short in two straight promising playoff runs.
It’s Giannis himself.
He’s a singular player, sure, and his presence will ensure the Bucks’ future on the court will at least resemble the success of the past few years.
But we wanted Giannis to stay so much because he’s Giannis. His obvious and apparent goodness – at its core, a humility, innocence and sense of wonder at America and Milwaukee – has challenged our hesitancy to take celebrities at face value.
During his time in Milwaukee, we’ve watched him grow from an impossibly lanky 18-year-old draftee from Greece to an impossibly ripped 26-year-old league MVP. Tweet by tweet, we’ve watched him discover the delights of American cuisine like smoothies and Funyuns. We’ve watched him demonstrate his generosity. We’ve watched him start an adorable family. How could you not love that smile? And how could you not love that on-the-court mean mug?
So forgive us, New York, L.A. and Bay Area, if we think about him as ours. He loves Milwaukee, just like we do. We learned how to pronounce his name years before you did.
And now you will be cursing his name as our Bucks kick your teams’ butts in the playoffs for years to come.