Giannis from left to right: 2013 NBA Draft night, 2013 rookie season, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
USA TODAY Sports photos
Before he was a first-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo was a prop.
OK, OK, he wasn’t a prop, but rather a fledgling player in a lower-level basketball league in Greece who had big plans. And whose last name was still spelled Adetokunbo.
In his pre-draft video, he says “I want to be a NBA player” and declares his strengths are that he’s an “all-around player. I can jump, I can shoot, I can pass the ball, I can do everything.”
This longer video displays his skills, albeit from unknown competition in a far-away country in high school-sized gyms.
Once he became a member of the Bucks, a recently drafted Antetokounmpo worked out, talked to members of the media, met some Milwaukee staff — note the old logo — and even ate some pizza.
He wasn’t a household name yet, though.
Even NBA commissioner David Stern had problems saying his name, but announcers soon learned his name as Antetokounmpo displayed his athleticism his rookie year.
One thing he could do is dunk.
Still, Giannis averaged just 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in 24.6 minutes his first season. By his second year, Antetokounmpo had learned a few more moves as well as how to best take advantage of his long arms and legs.
After averaging 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists in his sophomore campaign, Antetokounmpo stepped up all facets of his game last season. While he scored (16.9 ppg) and rebounded (7.7 rpg) more, he also finished with 4.3 assists per game, 1.4 blocks per game and for the first time averaged over a steal per game (1.2).
(And he can still dunk.)
Antetokounmpo’s complete game took off in the second half of last season, when he recorded five triple-doubles, including three in 10 days.
A key to Giannis’ production was a move by head coach Jason Kidd to move the big man to point guard.
Quickly, Giannis gained national notice. Not just from media, but fellow players — and superstars.
It took a few years, but that unknown 19-year-old turned into what every franchise searches for — an unrequited star and MVP candidate.
All the attention didn’t slow down Giannis, who has recorded two more triple-doubles this season.
The fans have certainly recognized the play of Antetounmpo, who is averaging 23.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.0 blocks on 53.9 percent shooting — all career highs, as only LeBron James got more All-Star votes than Giannis in the Eastern Conference.