Giannis, Bucks have one goal in mind: ‘Win the whole thing’

CHICAGO — Just making an NBA roster is a remarkable feat itself. Only 450 people out of the millions of global basketball players even get that rare opportunity each season.

Rising to elite status amongst NBA players is even more improbable. Being named NBA MVP over the league’s best of the best — as Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo was last season — is next-level astonishing.

Now, it helps that Antetokounmpo is 7-feet tall and lengthy, strong, fast, smart and has guard-like dribbling capabilities, but he still has to put the work in. Antetokounmpo noticeably has packed on mounds of muscle since his rookie season and stepped it up even more by improving his 3-point shooting to a respectable 31.3% this year.

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Antetokounmpo’s combined freakish athleticism and constant devotion to improving his already sound 30.0 points, 13.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.1 blocks and 1.1 steals per game is exactly why the Bucks sit at a league-best 46-8 and why he is yet again a front runner for the NBA MVP.

“I’m just trying to do what I have from day one, which is try to get better. Be humble, help my teammates be great,” said Antetokounmpo last weekend at the NBA’s All-Star Game. “By the end of the day, I think the most important thing is to get better, and whenever I have the chance to go out there I play with an edge. That’s pretty much it. When you do that, I think everything else will take care of itself.”

There is no argument that all of Antetokounmpo’s attributes on the court makes him a once-in-a-lifetime type of player, but what makes him an extraordinary teammate and friend, well, that belongs to his once-in-a-lifetime type of leadership.

During the 2020 NBA All-Star weekend, Antetokounmpo couldn’t go more than a few minutes without praising the fellow Bucks that joined him at the festivities.

Whether it was Antetokounmpo breaking up teammate Pat Connaghton‘s Saturday morning pre-dunk contest interview — walking to the stage on a beeline, politely interrupting and grabbing the microphone while proclaiming, “He’s going to win the dunk contest, he’s going to win it all!” (which could be heard throughout Wintrust Arena) — or when he was flapping a towel around the baseline and jumping like he was the president of the Khris Middleton fan club when the Bucks guard and Team Giannis teammate had a two-handed dunk off the backboard on a pass from the Raptors’ Kyle Lowry during the NBA All-Star Game. Antetokounmpo was even equally prideful for the Bucks mascot, who also made the All-Star trip.

“I’m really proud of Khris, Pat, Bango. I think we did a great job representing Milwaukee,” said Antetokounmpo about the Bucks’ representation at All-Star weekend. “A few years ago we won just 15 games and now we’re one of the best teams in the league. So now we have to keep going, put our heads down and stay humble. Obviously we’ve enjoyed this journey, but we have a long way to go.”

Last season, Milwaukee had an NBA-best 60-22 regular-season record. This season at 46-8 they are on pace to easily surpass last year’s mark. But with Antetokounmpo as their leader, the Bucks center of attention is to accomplish much more than winning games from October-April. They wish to carry their winning ways through the June 2020 NBA Finals.

“Our job is to take it day by day. Obviously we want to win as many games as possible, but our goal is to win the whole thing,” Antetokounmpo said. “We want to win every game. If we can win every game that would be great, but we can’t lose focus, we can’t lose track of our actual goal, which is to get better every day, keep learning every day and win the whole thing.”