With All-Star weekend just concluded, it felt right to lean heavily on the Star component of the events one more time and, naturally, think about what an imaginary Milwaukee Bucks star system would look like. Since my familiarity with celestial bodies goes no further than Astronomy 1001, I decided to ring up my friend Ben Sharkey, a graduate student at the University of Arizona studying planetary science and self-titled “Speaker of the Void”. His knowledge of the universe is indeed vast, and some of his answers were unexpected, though quite fitting. Without further ado, let’s begin our journey through the Milwaukee System.
Giannis Antetokounmpo - The Sun
Riley: I’ve already gone ahead and filled in the first answer for you because it’s painfully obvious Everything begins and ends for the Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Without him our theoretical star system would be either nonexistent and/or devoid of all life and meaning. Is that a proper summation of the role a “star” plays?
Ben: Yeah, I think the days of disputing the heliocentric model of the solar system have passed us by.
R: Great, that was easy!
Khris Middleton - Jupiter
R: He’s the second option, has a wide range of abilities offensively, good on defense when he commits himself, and subject of a lot of debate on his value to the team.
B: Okay, so would you say his movement around the court is itself the subject of debate?
R: Absolutely. Everyone believes they know where he should be to maximize his impact, but he tends to freestyle in order to feel comfortable.
B: This is easy then. He is 100% Jupiter. The movement of Jupiter throughout the history of the solar system is the subject of a lot of current debate. Whether it migrated closer to the sun before settling down outside the asteroid belt (we can call that the three point line right?) isn’t settled.
B: Also, Jupiter’s presence typically destabilizes anything near it.
R: (Looks knowingly at every Brew Hoop comments section)
Eric Bledsoe - DART Mission
R: Aggressive, mercurial on-court, intense, the guy who sets the tone defensively in spite of his smaller (yet strong) stature. Where Eric goes on any given night often helps determine the way the team will go.
B: Hmm, now this is getting tricky because I have to decide what makes a celestial body defensive.
R: Would it help if I described his style of play as systematically breaking up opposing offenses at the point of attack?
B: Sounds like the DART Mission (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) to me. It’s an upcoming NASA mission that is going to slam itself into an asteroid, basically just to see what happens. Throwing itself at a larger opponent to protect your home court, if you will.
Brook Lopez - Five-Planet Nice Model
R: Enormous physically, has undergone a big transformation since his early playing days, arguably one of the few non-Giannis players that lets the team do what it does.
B: Alright gonna get more obtuse here. If Khris is Jupiter, I think that Lopez is the hypothesized fifth planet in something called the five-planet nice model. Some people think we had a second Neptune-like planet way back when the planets first formed. It was closer inside to the sun, but too many planets crowded it around and it got flung way out into interstellar space, where it can throw down those uncontested threes for eternity.
R: This is so unbelievably fitting, if only thanks to the easy translation of a fifth gas giant to Lopez as Milwaukee’s “five” in the starting lineup. Is there any chance this theorized planet could be named “Lopez” in honor of it’s Earth-bound parallel under object-naming conventions? Maybe “L0P3Z”?
B: Names are controlled by the International Astronomical Union. Please don’t write them about this.
R: Well there goes my plans for a viral social media campaign...
Malcolm Brogdon - Triton
R: The player mature beyond his years. Not physically gifted by NBA standards, but able to impact the game through intelligent play and overly emphasizing his strengths.
B: Triton, the biggest moon of Neptune. To be honest, I’m mostly saying that because your description of him makes him sound like an interesting player, and I also think Triton is super cool and interesting (it’s very similar to Pluto...but it’s a moon, so what’s up with that? I don’t know, fund NASA to figure it out please).
R: Where federal funding fails to answer these important basketball questions, Brew Hoop shall prevail.
D.J. Wilson - Venus
R: Treated with contempt and confusion as to why it was here at all, someone who was a “tweener” in the most negative sense, now beloved, though there are questions about whether minutes for him now is in Milwaukee’s best immediate interest.
B: Venus, although the second step of it becoming beloved and cherished again are somewhat aspirational. We know surprisingly little about its history, or even what it’s surface is like. A lot of scientists would love to see a large scale NASA mission to Venus, but that hasn’t been a priority for some time.
R: This is an interesting pick, especially considering the fact that Venus’s atmosphere could kill you almost instantly. I’m hoping the DJ-Venus comparison stops short in this regard come May and June.
Sterling Brown - Chelyabinsk meteor
R: Energy guy who has a somewhat limited skillset, but impacts the game often through sheer force of will on defense and filling a niche on offense.
B: An energy guy who makes a narrow, but focused and intense impact? May I direct you towards Chelyabinsk, Russia, about six years ago?
R: This kind of grainy Russian dash cam footage is exactly what I imagine it must be like when you see Sterling rotating your way as a defensive matchup...
Tony Snell - Mars
R: Quiet in a way that makes him notable. Bit of an unknown. Routinely gets playing time but rarely registers much in the way of counting stats. Can be argued to either be a positive or negative force on the flow of the team depending on your POV.
B: Mars. We’ve been studying it extensively for decades (plenty of playing time), and while we keep finding new and exciting things out about it, there are some disagreements about whether all of the time we’re putting into it (at the expense of exploring other worlds in detail too) is justified.
R: Much like the scientific community I’m sure the Bucks will continue to poke and prod at Snell forever in the hope that they can finally crack the proverbial ice crust and uncover pockets of liquid water (also known as four made threes in a playoff game, in the case of basketball).
George Hill - Halley’s Comet
R: Hill is a tough one to quantify for this exercise. He’s a pseudo-journeyman who has been doing the “little things” right for a number of years and for a number of teams. A steady force that can be relied upon in almost all situations.
B: Well I need to put a comet on here somewhere, so how about comet Halley? It comes around exactly when we expect it to, and it generally shows us exactly what we expected based on the last time we saw it.
Pat Connaughton - UFO?
R: Patriots fan, “sneaky athletic”, definition of a role player. There’s a very real possibility that he’s made of cheese, so maybe the Moon would be apt here?
B: He’s a Patriots fan? I’m not going to make a joke about rings and Saturn here. Instead, I refuse on moral grounds to honor him with a celestial object.
R: Sorry Pat, maybe you can be known as Saturn once the Bucks win the Finals and you have a legitimate ring to your name. Until then, go rotate around Giannis some more as an unidentified flying object.
Ersan Ilyasova - 253 Mathilde
R: The returnee. Not nearly the player he was when he spent a chunk of his early career in Milwaukee, but still out here doing the best he can despite slowing down due to aging. Takes charges (i.e. gets hit by other objects), like, a lot. A lot a lot.
B: A fair bit of competition here. A lot of things in the solar system have taken a beating. I’m gonna have to go with asteroid Mathilde, though. Visited by the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft back in 1997, it’s been smashed to pieces an uncountable number of times. It’s basically just a big bag of pulverized gravel now.
R: And yet that Turkish bag of pulverized gravel scrapes himself up off the floor ready for another grievous impact. Maybe each Ersan successful drawn charge should be known as a “Mathilde”. Workshop this for me, readers.
Christian Wood - Pluto
R: Long, lengthy, and a dominant force when existing in a smaller system. However, there are big questions about what kind of impact he’d have in a system filled with more powerful objects.
B: Pluto. This description is a pretty solid summary of the ‘is it a planet’ debate.
R: Hm, does the comparison hold if I told you that Wood posts quite a bit on social media about how ready he is for the big leagues?
B: You know Pluto would tweet if it could.
Nikola Mirotic - ʻOumuamua
R: Perhaps a key part that makes a difference in propelling this system from playoff-threat to Finals contender. He’s the newest member of the team and so the one whose role has yet to be made concrete, though we’ll know more in the coming weeks and beyond.
B: Nikola is ‘Oumuamua. The first ‘interstellar asteroid’ we detected, it’s basically a cosmic interloper. It was flung out from another star a looooong time ago, and it’s cutting a path through the solar system as we speak. I’d say it has three traits: 1) It is long 2) It is hard to make sense of 3) It gives us hope that we’ll see more things like it. In other words, we hope our solar system will continue to pick up talent via trades with other stars.
R: A couple of thoughts: A) That name is just awesome and I’m so happy to have had this enter into my life B) Is there a chance ‘Oumuamua contains an inscription from an alien race ala “Ancient Aliens”?
B: I refuse to engage in baseless speculation built with zero evidence.
B: Also, yes (built upon zero evidence.)
Donte DiVincenzo - Europa
R: His NBA skill is, and I know this sounds weird, but it’s that he “does stuff”. Too young (i.e. new) to get an idea of what he’ll turn into yet, though in theory there are plenty of possible directions in which he could develop, promising or otherwise.
B: I can see him as a Europa. The icy moon of Jupiter, it has a lot of potential (including a likely underground ocean that is a big interest amongst astrobiologists), but we haven’t explored it in enough detail yet to pin anything down.
R: The makers of Ragu would be ecstatic to learn that the spokesman for their delicious, yet family-friendly-priced noodle sauce is best compared to a... icy ball rotating around Khris Middleton (in this universe).
So concludes our journey through the Milwaukee System, where everything naturally revolves around the GianniSun, Ersan is best compared to a hunk of lifeless rock that’s been blasted by other lifeless rocks for eons, and The Big Ragu became The Big Satellite That May Contain Liquid. Were there any comparisons that felt especially apt? How about areas where you may disagree with Mr. Sharkey’s conclusions? Let us know in the comments below, and remember: Live long and Bucks in Six.