My soon-to-be-5-year-old son often sits by me when I watch non-Bucks basketball. He looks at the screen, keeps quiet for several seconds and then asks me: “Where is Giannis?” Before I have the time to explain to him that this is not a Bucks game he has already left the room full of indifference if not anger.
Can’t blame him. What is a basketball game without the Greek Freak? To the eyes of a child it may seem like an X-Men film without Wolverine or a snack without chocolate. The “problem” is that the same thing stands for a vast majority of Bucks fans around the world. That 6-0 hype, the new Fiserv Forum hype plus the (common?) feeling that Giannis, despite posting jaw-dropping numbers in far less mpg than last year (per 36 minutes he is up 3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2 assists and 0.6 blocks comparing to his already historic 2017-2018 campaign!!!) has not yet started delivering his A Game this year, all those made watching him in Tuesday night’s game imperative.
Sadly, there was no Giannis thanks to the NBA ‘s concussion protocol. Interestingly there was no Kawhi either for resting purposes. Alas, the first time in NBA history that two teams with records 6-0 and better faced each other and they both missed their alpha dogs. But are we sure that this is a bad thing?
When my son woke up a couple of hours after the game ended (considering we live in Greece) he asked me what Giannis did last night. Well, he actually asked me what Basketokounmpo did (his own secret nickname for the Greek Freak – shhhh). I had just finished watching the game via the NBA League Pass. So I sat him on my lap and told him the full truth:
Giannis was great as always. He led the team in points and rebounds after shape-shifting into a Turk Warrior (19 pts 10 reb for Ilyasova). He found his stroke from far draining his second and third trey of the season disguised as Slim Maker (2/4 from 3 for Thon). He was the anchor of the offense dishing assists dressed as Eric the Great (8 assists for Bledsoe). He shot the most from the free throw line than anyone in the team playing with constant hustle impersonating The Prez (5/5 FT, 4 personal fouls for Brogdon). He blocked shots as Brook the Rock (2 blocked shots for Lopez).
He was practically everywhere. He was the best player on the court. “So many new superheroes!” my son shouted in sheer delight and continued “the G-Men”! I had to google that before I wrote it down to avoid any unpleasant meanings that might elude me. Turns out that G-Men was (and is?) used for government agents. A group of people working for a common cause, each and every one playing his role to achieve a greater cause. Wait, that’s also the definition of the word Team. Well, Giannis’s team played their hearts out, making the alleged clash of NBA leaders seem very one sided.
Giannis was there, probably purring from joy that his team can make it without him but also probably constantly wanting to jump in as he did in the 4th quarter of the game against Orlando despite having blacked out a few minutes earlier. Because that’s what leaders do. They make themselves unnecessary for their team to succeed but are also willing to throw themselves in the fire whenever needed (bear no doubt that if the Magic game’s fate was not decided so early Giannis would play throughout the 4th quarter, no matter what).
“Come on now” I told my son, “we have to go to school”. He got washed, dressed and ready and before we left he said: “And Khris, what did Khris do?” The only other player besides Antetokounmpo he knows is Middleton, of course. “Well, Khris is Samwise Gamgee, my son, many times more valuable than Frodo himself. Always steady, always there…”. “I don’t know these superheroes” he interrupted me, I have kept LOTR’s darkness away from his tender eyes so far. “Well, that’s another story son, I ‘ll tell you someday”.