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What Does Giannis Mean To You? Part 1

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

We talk a lot about Giannis Antetokounmpo around here. As a Milwaukee Bucks site, this shouldn’t be a surprise. As he starts his second consecutive NBA All Star game, Giannis only further entrenches himself as the best Buck since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was at the height of his powers for Milwaukee in the early 1970s.

But our identity isn’t just how we see ourselves, but part of it is also how others see us. Giannis understands that, and has taken huge strides towards reconciling his self-view with the opinion of some of the league’s all-time greats. Former coach Jason Kidd was a major influence on Giannis’ development, and as reported by ESPN Milwaukee’s Eric Nehm, so are Kevin Garnett and, hopefully soon, one Kobe Bryant.

Antetokounmpo, however, wants to get at something even greater than tips on the floor or help with footwork.

“Not to just go out there and workout for two or three weeks, but to grab a dinner and see the way his mind thinks,” Antetokounmpo said. “To see if I’m on the right path.

“It’s all about how he thinks. It’s about how they think, how the greats think. How they think about the game. I want to see how he thinks about the game, how he sees the game, how he would play today, would he change something about the way he plays. Obviously, he’s watched me play, and hopefully he can give me some tips.”

Other people’s opinions matter! In that spirit, we went around the league and asked a few other SB Nation writers what they thought about Giannis, from the perspective of their own teams when they play the Bucks. Here’s what they had to say:

Sean Woodley, Raptors HQ (@WoodleySean)

For Raptors fans, Giannis is a pantheon “I’m scared shitless of that guy” player, and he may have reached that level faster than anyone has before. LeBron James, Paul George and Gerald Henderson (don’t ask) are the only other guys I can think of off the top of my head who loom menacingly in the minds of Raptors fans as much as Giannis does. For a time during last year’s playoff series, it felt as though Giannis was about to single-handedly put an end to the Raptors’ recent run of success; he had the power to send Kyle Lowry to the Spurs or the Sixers through his singular force, and down 2-1 it really started to feel like the lasting legacy of this Raptors’ era was going to be as Giannis’ first stepping stone towards to the top of the NBA.

He also has this strange ability to make you respect the hell out of him while he’s sonning you. If I may cite his post-game comments following the Raptors’ Game 3 loss, during which Giannis simply read DeMar DeRozan’s stat line.

This was the off-court equivalent of him dunking with his junk in Tim Hardaway Jr’s grill, but it was even more cutting. Within that clip you can see his disrespect almost morph into pity. And for this transcendent talent, fresh off putting up 19 points on 10 shots, to so openly mock DeRozan, a player whose efficiency has been historically bad in the post-season, was a deft and sobering reminder to Raptors fans that while talented, DeRozan and Lowry have and will always lack the top-tier talent that a guy like Giannis has.

Raptors fans will no doubt be pulling for Toronto to take the top seed in the Eastern Conference in order to avoid the Cavaliers and Celtics until a potential Conference Finals. It would be very Raptors for a 5th-seeded Bucks to shred those plans while Giannis averages 35-9-9 in a second round upset.

Tom Lorenzo, Nets Daily (@TomLorenzo)

From a Nets perspective the thought is pretty much: “If only...” or “I wish...” Vince Carter in his prime. Jason Kidd in his prime. Drazen Petrovic in his prime. All transformative franchise players, but not home-grown and not here for long. Brook Lopez was home-grown, and probably the closest thing the Nets have had to a Giannis, but let’s be real: he’s no Giannis. Nets fans are generally in awe of such talents, so I think there’s a lot of love for Giannis in Brooklyn – there’s also a huge Greek community in New York City, so when Milwaukee comes to town it can feel like a Bucks’ home game at Barclays Center.

Simply put, Nets fans would give it ALL up – clear house, start from scratch – if they were able to get their hands on know, if the Bucks are interested in getting rid of him.

Eric Griffith, Blazer’s Edge (@EricG_NBA)

Personally, I feel excitement when the Blazers play Giannis. I’m a huge fan of NBA history and Giannis appeals to me as someone who could potentially have a transformative effect on the league. It’s not often that a player combines the scoring ability of James Harden with the size/length of Kevin Durant, plus some decent playmaking skills. Add a three-point shot and Giannis is basically the idealized version of a 2018 NBA player. I’d almost be surprised if he doesn’t win some MVPs as he enters his prime. As a fan of the game, it’s hard not to get excited when it feels like you’re watching a player make history.

For Blazers fans, thinking about Giannis is a bit weird. Blazermaniacs are obviously VERY happy about drafting CJ McCollum in 2013, but it’s hard not to imagine what could have been if Portland had gone a different direction with that No. 10 pick. Especially since Giannis’ versatility would immediately solve all of the team’s lineup problems.

More recently, the Bucks stole a game from the Blazers earlier this season, and Giannis’ role will not be soon forgotten (with only one team in town, Blazers fans have a VERY long memory) – especially given the iffy nature of the steal that clinched the game. He’s not goign to get booed or anything, and people will still reflexively ooh and ahh at any freakishly good plays, but I suspect there will be some side eye directed toward him for another year or two. Especially on borderline officiating situations. Like this one!

Thanks to Tom, Eric, and Sean for taking some time to share their Giannis thoughts today. We’ll be reaching out to other team sites to repeat this exercise, particularly for teams that Giannis might not have excelled against in the past. Be sure to catch the Greek Freak trying way too hard for Team Steph during the All Star Game today at 7:00pm.