Few players have made bigger (or longer) strides over the past year than Milwaukee Bucks second-year player Giannis Antetokounmpo. Since making the leap from the Greek second division to the NBA as an 18-year-old, the Greek Freak has emerged as a key piece to the Bucks' rebuilding efforts, his family has moved to America, and he hasn't stopped growing at the tender age of 20. We sat down with the him before last Friday's game with the Pacers and talked about his journey to the NBA, his favorite foods and what he's hoping to pass down to his younger brothers.
I've known you since your draft press conference, and I've seen you grow first-hand over time. In your eyes, what has been something you've grown at the most since then? It's been a long journey, and it was a fun journey. I grew in the game more, especially this year compared to last year. With the coaching staff this year, they came in and knew that I have a love for the game. Every day we practice more and every day he's talking to me [head coach Jason Kidd] and trying to teach me the game. So, for sure the game. On the defensive end, I know where to be, knowing the right spots, knowing how to move my teammates, playing defense for all of the guys. I'm just trying to keep learning as much as possible everyday because at the end of the day, you can be 35 and still learning the game. It's fun.
People know who you are now and are attacking you more, how do you prepare for that daily? Are you accustomed to it now? I'm just used to it. I try to go out there and play as hard as possible. For sure, whenever we play a team with a big name, like Carmelo (Anthony), LeBron (James), Kevin Durant, I just go out there and play hard so after the game they can notice me and say, ‘that's Giannis'.
You make highlight plays nearly every night that crash the Internet. With that said, have you ever thought about entering the dunk contest? I don't know, I've never thought about that. If they invite me, I will take the challenge for sure.
Did you have a favorite dunker growing up? Yeah, Vince Carter.
I remember you said when you were in Brooklyn, nobody knew who you were last year, but now everybody surrounded your locker. With so many people wanting to talk and hear from you, do you still approach everything the same as always? It's just the same. I just always try to open up to everybody. It's nice that people notice you, but sometimes it can be hard. But you've got to always be polite, got to show your manners, I just try to open up.
It's obviously a lot better, but in your opinion, how is your English now? It's a lot better, I'm just picking up from my teammates and coaches by how we talk. When I talk with my brothers at home, I always talk to them in English. I'm just trying to get better.
So, do you curse at them in English too then? (laughs) At my brothers? No, but sometimes at the game I curse sometimes ... sometimes.
When your parents first got here to Milwaukee, you took them to Walmart in a limousine. Why did you do that? I just wanted to show them America. The first time that I entered a limo, it was when I first came here to Milwaukee and they took me from the airport. That was the first time, so I wanted to do the same thing for my family, and that's why when they came, they took a limo. Just so they could enjoy the day in the U.S.
So you just wanted to pass down the tradition, right? Yep.
Your younger brothers are now growing up here in Milwaukee, and Kostas just threw down a dunk the other day. What are you passing down to them? Just love the U.S., and try to adjust as much as possible. Keep working hard, it's different, it's a lot different. It's different for me, it's different for my brothers, but you just got to work hard and learn as much as possible with the coaches.
How often do you speak to Thanasis? I talk to him every day. Whenever I'm at home and have a chance, I always call or he always calls. We talk every day. He's been playing well and he's just working hard and waiting for the right time and opportunity.
When you're at home, do you still play with yourself in 2K? Yeah, I stopped playing. I just try to play with other players now. Like now, I play with Stephen Curry, I love him in 2K14 and 2K15. He makes all the shots.
Are the Warriors your team in 2K15 then? Ah, the Bucks are my team but, sometimes I play with the Warriors too.
Everybody knows your reaction to when you tried your first smoothie, any new food places you've tried? I tried Five Guys. It's delicious, but it's not healthy for you.
Have you tried AJ Bombers? Yeah, I've tried it.
Which is better between the two? I'll say AJ Bombers. I'm just going to say that because it's in Milwaukee.
What's your favorite meal now? Usually pregame meals like pasta with some chicken, and salad, but the truth is ... Chipotle (laughs).