Last weekend, Giannis Antetokounmpo proved to the world what Milwaukee already knew– he is among the best in the league. The Greek Freak (or Zeus as I’m aptly dubbing him) dropped an Eastern Conference-leading 30 points in just 23 minutes in last Sunday’s All-Star game. Giannis became the first Bucks All-Star since Michael Redd in 2004, and he did not disappoint. If there was any doubt in anyone’s mind about Giannis’ star status, it should have been erased after he put two-time MVP Steph Curry on a poster in front of the whole world.
Giannis’ lovability and talent has been well on display in Wisconsin for the last few years. Rarely has he gotten a chance to shine in the national or international spotlight, because well, his team is the Milwaukee Bucks. Even with Giannis’ success and rapid explosiveness in the league, the Bucks have struggled to rise above the level of mediocrity. With that being said, a force like Giannis who can seemingly do everything and anything on and off the court is what a small market team needs to thrive.
Becoming a superstar is no easy task, and that is especially true when playing in a city like Milwaukee. Compared to New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, or Chicago, Milwaukee is not a big market, bright lights kind of town. But who’s to say that smaller cities can’t be the home of legends? Kevin Durant won an MVP award in Oklahoma City. Damian Lillard has been near the top of everyone’s point guard list, and he plays in Portland. DeMarcus Cousins was arguably the best big man in the association in Sacramento. Small town superstars are who fans love to root for.
Giannis is only 22 years old. He’s already making the case of being the best player to ever wear a Milwaukee Bucks uniform. When you consider that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson were once Bucks, that may seem like an erroneous statement. However, if Giannis’ promise to stay in Milwaukee until he wins a championship stays true, I don’t see how anyone could argue against that. Barring injuries, Giannis has the potential to play for the better part of the next two decades. And Wisconsinites would be spoiled if he stayed a Buck for his entire career. Nobody, besides Durant and LeBron James, has consistently been a factor in every way possible like Giannis has. Now, he’s only been playing like this for a little over a year. But why would anyone expect anything to change? Once his jump shot, from mid-range and from three, gets polished, Giannis will be an unstoppable force.
Who was the last Bucks superstar? Ray Allen? Glenn Robinson? Would you have to go all the way back to Sidney Moncrief? The point is that it has been a very long time since the Bucks had an internationally recognized and loved player. Since Allen, Milwaukee has been the home of many fringe players. Guys like Redd, Desmond Mason, Andrew Bogut, Ersan Ilyasova, and Brandon Jennings all had their moments and shined briefly. But none of them possessed the perennial All-Star potential that Giannis has. And why stop at All-Star? Am I crazy to believe that Giannis has played and can play well enough to compete for an MVP award? Defensive Player of the Year? First Team All-NBA? Finals MVP? If and when the Bucks build a winning environment around Giannis Antetokounmpo, he will undoubtedly be renowned as one of the best freaks of nature the game has ever seen.