Five reasons why Giannis Antetokounmpo is such a fan favorite in Milwaukee. Plus: previewing the next two weeks of Bucks basketball, the clip of the week and much more.
Every year around this time, there is a hot new toy that children around the world must have. This year, thanks to a cursory Google search, it looks like children want something called a Beatbo, something from the movie Frozen, a lightsaber, or maybe a Barbie that rides a horse.
While adults don’t put toys on their wish list (often), they do have wish lists for their professional sports teams. On the top of that list each year is a championship, but just below that on the list is a player that could lead you to a championship. In a perfect world, that player would also be someone that you would love to cheer for every season.
Well, it just so happens that Bucks fans live in that perfect world because Giannis Antetokounmpo is that guy. Last week, I remarked that I could not think of a player that the city of Milwaukee has loved more than Antetokounmpo. The response I received confirmed this adoration. So here are the five reasons why he is probably the most lovable player in the NBA.
- Incredible backstory. Unlike other stars throughout the league, Antetokounmpo did not dominate AAU ball during the summer or get recruited by the best college programs. Instead he was forced to be a street vendor as a teenager on the streets of Greece to help his parents who had emigrated from Nigeria to Greece before he was born. It’s incredibly easy to cheer for him to overcome his hard childhood.
- Innocence. Often fans will complain about the arrogance of some players or the way they carry themselves, but Antetokounmpo has no such predispositions. Much was made of Antetokounmpo having his first smoothie, but he had never tasted peanut butter before he started in the NBA. There is nothing tainted about him. He is innocent and pure.
- Endless possibilities. There really haven’t been many (if, any) players like Antetokounmpo before. He’s seven feet tall. He has impossibly long limbs. He is incredibly athletic with smooth movements. He can handle the ball. He is a strong passer, who sees the game well. He has shown an ability to shoot a jump shot. At this point, he could be anything in the NBA, which allows people to get lost in his vast potential as an NBA player.
- Flawed. If a player is undeniably great, people just accept it. Antetokounmpo, at this point of his career, remains flawed. He hasn’t found confidence in his jump shot yet and viewers from the outside can continue to question his abilities. In turn, Bucks fans jump to defend him from these critiques, which only further galvanizes fans’ love and adoration for Antetokounmpo.
- Embraced Milwaukee. While Bucks fans regularly fight for him, Antetokounmpo has stood up for the city and said that he wants to be with the Bucks forever. No one can tell the future, but for a city with some abandonment issues with their best professional athletes, it was comforting for fans to hear and helped them truly embrace Antetokounmpo.
So, while you compile your sports fan wish lists, feel free to put down a few more wins for the Bucks, but don’t worry about putting down a player that could lead the Bucks to a championship because you’re not going to find one more lovable than Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Clip of the Week
When Draymond Green brings the ball up the floor for the Warriors this season, it has typically led to good things for the Warriors. On this play, the Bucks didn’t just stop Green-led fast break, they took it the other way and scored with some pretty passing between Michael Carter-Williams and Jabari Parker.
What to Read
Jason Kidd’s absence just another hitch in Bucks challenging season – Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney took a closer look at the Bucks’ struggles this season after the latest road bump, Jason Kidd’s hip surgery. Spoiler alert: A quick fix is not coming any time soon and that might be a good thing.
After Miles Plumlee’s big night against the Warriors, what do we make of John Henson? – The Bucks signed John Henson to a four year, $44 million deal (kicks in next year) this summer. Henson has struggled. Against the Warriors, Plumlee was great. Brew Hoop’s Dan Sinclair examined whether or not things will become more complicated for Henson if Plumlee continues to take advantages of his opportunities on the floor.
Eastern Conference no longer ‘Leastern Conference’ – Jeff Zillgitt from the USA Today talked with multiple people to see exactly why the Eastern Conference is no longer a laughingstock. Last season, on this date, the Bucks’ current record of 11-18 would have been good enough for ninth best in the conference. This season, the Bucks are in 13th in the Eastern Conference and two and a half games away from 12th place.
Week in Review
Friday – Despite the Golden State Warriors’ incessant hints at a blowout in their second meeting with the Bucks, the game remained close throughout and Golden State was only able to pull away from the Bucks in the final two minutes with the Bucks eventually losing 121-112. Despite most believing their victory over the Warriors was a fluke, Milwaukee showed that they belonged with the Warriors in their second game.
Sunday – A winless four-game road trip certainly seemed like a possibility after the Bucks fell to the Warriors, but the team was able to rally on Sunday to pull out a 101-95 victory over the Phoenix Suns. Michael Carter-Williams (20 points, nine rebounds, six assists) had a better day than former Bucks Brandon Knight (nine points, four assists, two rebounds), but who would be interested in that matchup?
Next (Two) Week’s Preview
Wednesday – Philadelphia has struggled, winning just a single game all season long. The Bucks beat the 76ers by just four the first time the first two teams played on Nov. 4 though, so a win against the Sixers might not be as easy as one would expect.
Saturday – The Bucks have lost both of their games against the Toronto Raptors this season. In their last meeting, the Bucks scored just 31 points in the first half and couldn’t manage to pull out a comeback victory, despite a strong second half.
Monday, Dec. 28 – Will we see a Zaza Pachulia revenge game in Dallas? Probably not, but Pachulia has managed to keep his level of play at the same level as last season and become a major part of the Mavericks’ early season success.
Tuesday, Dec. 29 – After some early struggles in former Florida head coach Billy Donovan’s first season in the NBA, the Thunder have found their rhythm and ripped off 15 wins in their last 21 games. The Bucks split their two matchups with the Thunder last season, losing in Oklahoma City and winning in Milwaukee.
Thursday, Dec. 31 – Things got ugly for the Bucks in their first meeting with the Indiana Pacers this season. Milwaukee was outscored 35-16 in the third quarter, which was one of their worst quarters of the entire season.
Saturday, Jan. 2 – The Bucks will start the new year across the border in Minnesota against the Timberwolves. The Timberwolves have managed to stay out of the cellar behind the progress of Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine, as well as the surprisingly steady play of rookie Karl-Anthony Towns.
Monday, Jan. 4 – The Warriors have received all the attention this season and the Spurs have done the Spursiest thing possible by somehow quietly starting a season 24-5. San Antonio helped Milwaukee put together their ugliest game of the season in a 95-70 Bucks loss in the teams’ first meeting.
Tuesday, Jan. 5 – A 15-11 record is enough for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, but apparently not enough for the Bulls. Jimmy Butler called out his new coach Fred Hoiberg after their game on Saturday and Hoiberg called out his players after their game on Monday. The Bulls are a mess.
Stats of the Week
0 – Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out of Sunday’s game against Phoenix with knee tendinitis. He played zero minutes. Miles Plumlee played great against the Warriors in 19 minutes of action, but played zero minutes against the Suns. Chris Copeland played zero minutes against the Warriors, but played eight minutes against the Suns. Strange stuff.
45.5 – For the last few years, Khris Middleton has been one of the league’s best shooters on catch-and-shoot opportunities from behind the three point line. This year is no different. Middleton is shooting 45.5 percent in these situations, good for 18th best in the league.
4.2 – NBA.com defines a contested rebound as a rebound gathered with an opponent within three and a half feet. Greg Monroe currently grabs the eighth highest number of contested rebounds per game in the NBA with 4.2.
Quick Bucks is Milwaukee Magazine’s weekly roundup of all things Milwaukee Bucks written by Eric Nehm. You can also find his work at SBNation’s Brew Hoop or you can find him on Twitter@eric_nehm, where he would love to hear about your best Bucks Christmas present.