Giannis Antetokounmpo is the purest rise to stardom the NBA has seen

NBA Milwaukee Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
NBA Milwaukee Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the epitome of rags to riches story, taking on the NBA as his own personal playground to perform highlight reel plays

Milwaukee Bucks phenomenon, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is set to launch his very first Nike sneaker, the Freak 1’s during this upcoming summer. The young talent’s rise to absolute dominance is a true mixture of a Cinderella and Hercules story.

From his grind going from rags to riches to his transformation from string bean to god-like figure, Giannis has proven himself time and time again to be a true underdog who epitomizes through his humble uphill battle a modern version of the mamba mentality.

Giannis was originally drafted 15th overall by the Bucks during the 2013 NBA draft at 18 years old, weighing in at only 190 pounds. The confused Wisconsinites were baffled when Milwaukee took on a lanky kid from Greece and convincing these fans was no easy feat.

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I recall a free fan event before the 2014 NBA season where the organization showed off Giannis’ potential by having him dunk without jumping in front of the whole crowd, showing his true length. They used him almost as a circus act to justify their pick. The Bucks pairing him with the likeness of Jabari Parker were to be the saviors of the struggling franchise bringing on the slogan “Own the Future”.

Giannis started off selling cheap trinkets on the streets of Athens to make money for his family. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated reported in 2014 that Giannis sent all the money he could home during his rookie year, leaving him without enough to even pay cab fare to get to the stadium before a game. It wasn’t until a giving couple saw him running to the BMO Harris Bradley Center, that he was offered a ride and made it there on time.

The star’s humble beginnings and understanding that one must truly earn what they desire 10 times over before they achieve it are what eventually push him to levels above all others. Over the course of the next couple seasons, Giannis puts on 50 pounds of muscle and became the best finisher in the league by having a true shooting percentage of 64.4 percent while having a usage rating of a miraculous 31 percent this past season.

The first major steps forward began during the 2016-2017 NBA season, when Giannis won the league’s Most Improved Player award and pushed the 3-seeded Toronto Raptors against the ropes taking the series six games; a series that had no business being extended.

Overcoming a 20+ point deficit in the middle of the third quarter of Game 6, sparked by Jason Terry, the Milwaukee Bucks felt a true sense of hope. Although the team fell a mere three points short that year, the belief in the “Own the Future” slogan had become the aurora draped over the fans in Milwaukee.

A few setbacks to the team included the offsetting injuries of Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton, never allowed the Bucks to see their “Big Three” play any truthful time together. During this time Giannis flourished, earning more and more touches until the offense was officially run through him. It was then, Antetokounmpo being the one consistent force of athleticism, skill, and grit in Milwaukee, that the keys to the franchise were officially handed to him.

Game after game the star worked, and if he poorly performed to his own standards on any given night, you could often see him in that arena correcting his mistakes right after the competition. He worked out with legend Kobe Bryant over this past summer. In a story tweeted by Frank Isola of The Athletic he stated,

Giannis showing up hours early, notepad in hand, just to show Kobe how committed he is to become the best in the league, is the most prime example of Giannis’ pure want to put everyone on notice that no matter how hard they work, he will always work harder.

This earned praise has proven to be a reality, and as always the Black Mamba proves his knowledge of the game superior as the Greek Freak has taken the NBA by storm. He is now not only the face of the number one seed in the NBA but most likely an all-defensive selection and the probable 2018-19 season MVP.

Fans everywhere watched this lanky teenager from Greece who was performing circus-esc dunks to prove his worth, grow to an MVP-caliber unit who has shown the most limitless potential this league has ever seen. To think that Giannis turned himself from David to Goliath, to an entity to powerful for human words to describe on the basketball court all over the course of six seasons, is truthfully thrilling. He has shown the honest hard work in the purest form throughout his life and is now seeing the fruits of success due to that work.

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As basketball fans, having the ability to watch another 10-15 years of the mean-mugging highlight plays Giannis presents the league is a gift. It is imperative that fans take in history in the making and appreciate a story of a legend, The Greek Freak, unraveling before their eyes.