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Blast from the Past: Giannis’ Wild Ride

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November 23, 2013: A tall, young Greek is walking down the street...

2013 NBA Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

It’s been five years since Giannis Antetokounmpo did one of the most Giannis things you’ll ever hear. No, he didn’t dunk from the foul line. No, he didn’t single-handedly win a game. No, he didn’t jump over a 6’6” human being to throw down an alley oop.

He got stuck in an awkward, yet hilariously wholesome, predicament in chilly downtown Milwaukee in November. The story actually was first reported as a comment on a Brew Hoop post, and was later shared on Twitter by Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix.

Here’s UW-Milwaukee professor Dr. Jane Gallop (the Good Samaritan) and her recollection from 2014:

On Saturday, November 23, it was cold in Milwaukee (below 20 degrees in the afternoon). I was shopping in the Brady Street area (the east side of Milwaukee, a few minutes away from the BMO Harris Bradley Center) with my boyfriend of 35 years. We saw a tall black guy running by and he looked familiar. I drove by him again four blocks away and realized it was Giannis. I stopped the car, rolled down the window and asked if he wanted a ride.

”Are you going to the Bradley Center?” he asked and I said yes. He was wearing only a windbreaker.

When he got in the car, I said “You need a winter jacket.” He said his credit card didn’t work and he’d sent all the money to his family in Greece. He thanked us over and over again for the ride. He was running from where he lives (“on Lake Drive,” he said). I got an autograph (in Greek!), but didn’t think to get a photo (I’m full of regret). Imagine a photo of all 6’10” of him in the backseat of my Honda Fit (incredibly small back seats)!

We dropped him off at the BMOHBC and he said “Thanks, you really saved me!” I was so excited to have him in my car, that I didn’t even think to get a photo. I hope he now has a winter jacket and proper transportation.

What a sweet kid...

What a story, and it gets better when you dig into the details. November 23, 2014 was a 7:30pm (central) tip-off against the visiting Charlotte Bobcats (yes, the Bobcats), so the date is absolutely legit. The Bucks fell to 2-10 on the season that night after getting beat by Charlotte 96-72; it was an ugly game, and happened to be the catalyst of former Brew Hooper Steve Von Horn’s mantra during the Milwaukee tanking years:

Giannis also played in that game, putting up 6 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals in 12 minutes. From the recap:

After receiving DNP-CD’s the last handful of games, Giannis Antetokounmpo played clean-up during the entire fourth quarter, scoring six points on 3-7 shooting. He made some aggressive drives to the basket and was one of the few players not moving at a snail’s pace, though it’s hard to tell if he was doing so productively or just because he was so excited to be back on a court playing again.

Let’s pause for a second and think about this: not only did Giannis hoof it to try and get to the stadium for a game, but he did it after riding the bench for two straight games! Some players might get themselves stuck without a ride, consider how likely they were to not play that night, and decide it wasn’t worth the trouble. The headline could instead have been “Bucks rookie fined for missing shoot around” and sports talk radio could have railed endlessly about how he was just another entitled millionaire (which was obviously not true; his rookie year salary was $1.79M, and this happened 12 games into the season). But no, Giannis had an obligation to his team, just like to his family, and he decided to take a jog.

So it’s a given that Giannis had enough energy to play hard in the fourth quarter of a blowout, but how far was that warmup jog, anyway? Luckily, I went to high school in the area where I believe Giannis’ apartment at the time was located. He mentioned in the original story that he lived “on Lake Drive,” and my research confirms my memory that there is a shoreline apartment complex on the corner of South Lake Drive and Howard Avenue, which is only a half-mile from the Bucks’ old practice facility at the Archdiocese in St. Francis.

Granted, this is assuming that the apartment Giannis was living in was indeed this far south of downtown Milwaukee, even if it seems in character for Giannis to have found a spot where he could be close to the gym, as was referenced in the documentary ‘Finding Giannis,’ as well as a recent FanPost by a Bucks fan in Greece. It would make more sense if his “Lake Drive” apartment was on North Lake Drive, which is way closer to downtown. Maybe he was closer to Milwaukee...or maybe he wasn’t living in that area of the city. We don’t know for sure, but if he was set up in St. Francis...

I’ve had to walk to work in winter in Milwaukee before too, but whoa.

Writing this story made me curious about what Dr. Gallop (the driver) has been up to, and whether she’s kept up with the team since they got, you know, worth keeping up with. I’m happy to report that she does still follow the Bucks closely, and she even gave us an epilogue to the Giannis story:

“My daughter (who is now 23) lived in Paris a year ago. As a young single she was “on the apps” dating. She was “talking with” a guy from Greece (who was also living in Paris). When she said she was from Milwaukee, he responded “Giannis!” She told him about her mother giving Giannis a ride. He knew the story and said: “your mother is a hero in Greece.”

I cherish that sentence and want it on my gravestone!”

This tale truly is a gift that keeps on giving.

It’s important for us to never lose sight of what Giannis Antetokounmpo was when he entered the league, and how he has grown up but not changed who he is. Things change fast, and five years is an eternity in the NBA, but I somehow feel like Giannis is still the type of guy to end up having sent too much money to family that he feels compelled to simply run to work from his apartment. He’s an All Star, an MVP candidate, and will be running the league very soon, but this...this is so Giannis.