Giannis Antetokounmpo is more eager than ever to reclaim the NBA crown in the Greek superstar’s 10th season in the league.
Back when he was taken by the Bucks as a draft with the 15th pick in the 2013 NBA draft, no one could have predicted how he would become the most dominant two-way player in the league.
It’s another way of saying he’s the best basketball player.
The latest NBA 2K ratings, which as explained in a previous article, even top NBA stars attach a lot of importance to it, he is the absolute leader with his rating of ’97’.
But the player himself says that without the NBA championship in his pocket to back it all up, he can’t claim to be the best player.
He is desperate to win his second crown after leading the Bucks to their first championship in half a century in 2021.
“Do I believe I’m the best player in the world? No,” Antetokounmpo said. “I think the best player in the world is the person who is the last one standing, he is the person who takes his team to the final, to the finish line and helps them win the game, win games and become a champion.
“I got jealous of Golden State and saw them in the parade and the ESPYs. You know that feeling now. You know what’s being taken away from you.”
The Greek Freak started the new season as someone with a singular purpose. He enters Wednesday night’s matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, live on Sky Sports Arena and main event starting at 12:30 a.m. after scoring 44 points and catching 12 boards in under 28 minutes on the floor in the win over Houston.
Ridiculous numbers. He went 17 of 21 from the floor, including 2 of 3 from three-pointers the other night. The 27-year-old, whose shooting from beyond the arc is considered his weakness, hits a 50% clip in the two games the Bucks have had so far. If he even comes within 10% of sustaining that number in the future (he’s shot 28.9% from three during his NBA career), then he’ll be absolutely impossible to watch. This would complete one of the most formidable skill sets in gaming history.
Records continue to fall for him. After a regular season last year in which Antetokounmpo hit a career-high 29.9 points and passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the Bucks’ all-time leading scorer, against the Rockets, the 27-year-old became Milwaukee’s free throw leader.
Antetokounmpo came 8 of 13 from the foul line to take his total to 3,508 free throws from 4,891 attempts (71.7%). Sidney Moncrief made 3,505 free throws with the Bucks from 1979 to 1989.
“It’s a part of my game that I’ve always tried to improve, always tried to improve,” Antetokounmpo said. “Just being up there is a great feeling.”
“You run out of words to describe a player like that,” Bucks center Brook Lopez said of his teammate. “I can’t imagine you actually having to write. I don’t know how you don’t send the same article over and over again with the same adjectives and all that stuff because you need new ways of describing just how his game is growing, it’s hard.
“He’s obviously the head of the snake, the driving force behind everything we do. He comes out with such a mentality and focus that it reverberates. It energizes all of us.”
The Nets go into Wednesday night’s game and are still finding their bearings in the new season, having gone 1-2 early on, but Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant cooked for 37 points apiece in Monday night’s 134-124 loss. against the Memphis Grizzlies. Unfortunately for them, Ja Morant and Desmond Bane both did better with 38 apiece.
Ben Simmons is still finding his feet with his new teammate, finding himself in trouble too often to be the defensive threat he could become. He’s one of the few players with the frame and mobility to try and keep Giannis at least semi-effectively.
Can he rise again for the battle against the one-man wrecking crew that is Antetokounmpo and the very savvy, savvy Bucks? Milwaukee is actually the oldest and most experienced team in the league this year. With Giannis at the heart of leading them every game, they have every reason to believe they can avenge last season’s relinquishment of the NBA crown by winning everything against this year.
Antetokounmpo, by the way, certainly wasn’t to blame for the Bucks’ seven-game loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season. He averaged 29.6 points, 14.7 rebounds and 7.1 assists against Boston to become the first player to record 200 points, 100 rebounds and 50 assists in a playoff series.
“I’m always going to be desperate,” Antetokounmpo said. “I always try to maximize my potential. I’m lucky to be sitting in this seat, you know, and I’m not going to take that for granted.”
Watch live NBA action on Wednesday night as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and the Milwaukee Bucks host Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets – late night from 12:30 a.m., live on Sky Sports Arena & Main Event