Mounir Gad - Staff Writer - Silicon Valley, CA - July 21, 2021
The 15th pick in the 2013 NBA draft was… you guessed it, The Greek Freak. The Milwaukee Bucks took a risk on a little-known overly-thin, untested, and raw baby-faced teenager with one or two impressive clips against less than elite competition. Giannis was the true definition of a question mark – from his uncertain potential to even just pronouncing his name.
Fast forward to now – a few years later – and that question mark has proven to be more like an exclamation point. (Or maybe a whole mess of punctuation if you're unfortunate enough to play against him.) Giannis Antetokounmpo has proven to not only be the best player in his draft class, but arguably the best player in Milwaukee Bucks history and maybe the best player of his time (after Steph Curry, of course). He's been a highlight machine with MVP-like numbers – and we still haven't seen the ceiling of his abilities yet. And in the process, he's rejuvenated a once-middling, mediocre franchise and the entire city of Milwaukee, sparking a new arena, a new Downtown district and a new sense of optimism.
Now, let’s discuss why we should all love Giannis using the impressive statistics and wins he's accumulated – but that's just part of the equation. The boring part, at that. No, it's not just the numbers that make the Greek Freak beloved around Brew City. It's the stylish way he's racked up those numbers on the court – and the charming personality he's shown off of it – that's already made the twenty-something-year-old an icon teetering on legend status.
So putting those boring numbers aside, here's a list of reasons – 34 of them, because duh – why we geek out over the Greek Freak.
1. His origin story
Before Giannis took a single dribble or set foot on the court, we were fans of the Greek Freak and his incredible story, growing up as poor in Greece as the son of an immigrant from Nigeria before making it to the USA & the NBA –while keeping family and heritage near & dear all the while. His legend has only grown since his rookie year. As he climbs to the absolute top, we should remember where it began, when Giannis was still just an unknown lanky kid with a lot of great potential and an even greater story.
2. That one time he tried a smoothie for the first time (the things we take for granted…)
Giannis: the best thing to happen to smoothies since the invention of the blender. He’s almost as cool as legendary Mark Cuen of San Jose.
3. Come to think of it, all of his food adventures are great
Little did we know that Giannis' first taste of smoothie would be just the start of a charming cornucopia of foodie tweets from the Greek Freak, sampling the finest of America's festival fare and junk foods from the corn dog ...
... to his first swig of Kool-Aid ...
And it goes on and on. There’s a story of him trying Funyons and a litany of other things for the first them with pure child-like joy.
4. and… this story
Twitter can be awful sometimes. Other times, well it can be great. Like when it gives you this gem…
Perhaps The Greek Freak is the only good, honest and pure thing about social media….
5. The Giannis mean mug and it’s debut
For his first few seasons in the NBA, Giannis was the scrawny potential star with the childlike smiling face. But in 2015, near the end of his second year with the Bucks, he gave everyone a glimpse at the face of the future.
Not only would that moment preview Giannis' takeover of the league, with many more mean mugs in tow, but it also marked the first installment of his true crime series, "Giannis and the Murder of the New York Knicks."
6. When he bodychecked Mike Dunleavy into the seats
Because, let’s keep it real ya’ll, who hasn't wanted to knock Mike Dunleavy into next week? If you're going to bomb out of the playoffs, losing by almost double your point total, might as well do it while blasting one of the league's quietly more punchable players into the crowd.
7. Giannis’ Justin Bieber impression
The Bucks' big 2015 home win over the then-undefeated Golden State Warriors featured plenty of highlights on the court, but the definitive best of the bunch happened above it, played on the Jumbotron during a timeout.
The fact that Giannis has never been on "Car Pool Karaoke" or "Lip Sync Battle" is frankly criminal, and I would like to order a federal inquiry into this matter. We the American public should demand better of our entertainment. Thankfully Giannis didn't commit too hard to his Bieber impression and start peeing in mop buckets.
8. His 2017 buzzer beater vs. the Knicks
And now for the next installment of the true crime saga, "Giannis and the Murder of the New York Knicks."
9. His 2017 All-Star game dunk party where he spent the entirety of the game just dunking.
When Giannis made his first All-Star Game in 2017, he must've had one mission in mind: make posturized dunks nonstop.
10. When he pranked fans w/ the help of Mountain Dew
Now these are some prank calls that we can all get behind.
11. When he pranked Sterling Brown, filling his car w/ popcorn
A good lesson for all future Bucks draft picks: never forget your rookie duties. Or you may end up with more popcorn than a movie theater.
12. This smile-inducing 2017 vid
Enjoy this amazingly produced, thrillingly put together, evocatively shot, movingly told and Giannis-narrated ... advertisement for Greek chocolate milk.
Even his commercials are better than everyone else's commercials!
13. Media Day antics and jokes
Giannis is a one-of-a-kind, unstoppable unicorn on the court ... but what about behind a mic on the stage? Let's check out the Greek Freak's tight five:
So ... uh ... how about those basketball skills?!
14. Greece and its people – Giannis winning over fans
It's not very often you see a home crowd raucously cheering, chanting and singing a rival player's name. But then again, Giannis is no normal player, as you can see with this clip of Greek Cleveland Cavaliers fans sticking around after a game to shower Giannis with appreciation.
15. Including this kid that got the shirt off Giannis' back, quite literally
Point one: Giannis is so charming that he manages to make insulting the brand of an entire family sweet and delightful. (Of course, it helps if that brand is LaVar Ball's.) Point two: How many Big Baller Brand shirts did Giannis see at his next postgame autograph go-around? I imagine it had to be deep into the double-digits. I hope he was wearing a lot of shirts – and knowing Giannis, he probably did.
16. His potential day job as an NFL long snapper
18. He took not getting a table at BelAir Cantina like a champ
Well, uh, apparently there IS something Giannis can't do: get a table at BelAir Cantina after a big playoff win. But while the internet broke down about this 2018 non-starter of a controversy – it turns out the place was just busy, not rude – with everybody getting in on the overblown action (guilty as charged), Giannis kept his head above it all and effectively diffused the situation, explaining that it was never a big deal and complementing the taco hotspot in the process.
18. Getting name-dropped in a LIL WAYNE SONG -WEEEEEZY BABBBBY
Considering the rapper has already written an ode to the Green Bay Packers, it shouldn't be too surprising that he'd make another musical reference to a Wisconsin sports icon.
Here's to Lil Wayne busting this out at his 2019 Summerfest headliner gig – with hopefully the Greek Freak in the crowd to hear it.
22. That time he clapped back at Skip Bayless
We here at OnMilwaukee generally believe in ignoring full-time Fox Sports personality and part-time Skeletor cosplayer Skip Bayless, and not giving his diseased hot takes the oxygen they need to spread and infect society. But we'll overlook that for a brief moment to enjoy Giannis talking back to the talking head over Twitter last offseason
24. The 2019 All-Star Game alley-oop heard 'round the world
Two years after spending half of the All-Star Game getting dunked on by Giannis and the other half nervously looking up in fear of getting dunked on by Giannis, Warriors sharpshooter Steph Curry must've decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
26. When he fired a FAST BALL nailing James Harden in the head
He's already a potential football long-snapper and forward in soccer, so might as well put him the Brewers bullpen while we're at it.
Someone's taking this year's MVP race VERY seriously.
27. Valentine's Day, 2018
So before when I said Giannis might be the only good, honest and innocent thing on social media? Maybe I should just say good and honest.
28. That time he made fun of LeBron's "tampering"
We've all had fun laughing at the sparkly dumpster fire that's been the 2018-19 Los Angeles Lakes – and "we" includes Giannis, who dropped this solid zinger in the midst of the NBA All-Star Game live draft.
29. The time he gave Jon Leuer a rude welcome home
Jon Leuer played all four years of his college basketball career as a Wisconsin Badger. He was then drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2011 and played his first year in professional basketball in the very state where he made his name in school.
And Giannis cared NOT ONE BIT about any of that during this devastating dunk from January 2019.
31. He's chummy with J. Cole
In November of 2015, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post sat down for a conversation with rising star Giannis Antetokounmpo and asked him some casual icebreaker-type questions. One of those exchanges?
Fast-forward to January 2019, please.
Why yes, that is Giannis (and the rest of the Bucks) on J. Cole's Instagram, photographed dropping by the famous rapper's Dreamville studio in Atlanta and checking out some of the recording sessions for his upcoming compilation album.
Believe in your dreams, y'all.
32. This entire Washington Post interview
So that Washington Post interview I mentioned above? The whole thing is a charmer – from Giannis listing off some more foods he tried for the first time in America to citing "Coming to America" as his favorite movie (get pumped, Giannis; there's a sequel coming out!) and calling "Ellen" his favorite television show. And his likely job if basketball didn't exist? Security guard. The whole thing is filled with endearing gems – and sure, it's from 2015, so maybe he's found a new favorite TV show, but his low-key, modest charm hasn't seemed to change at all.
33. This interaction with a young Bucks fan and artist
In this social media, brand-centric era in sports, finding a truly authentic and honest moment of connection between an athlete and a fan – one created by genuine emotion and thoughtfulness rather than some clever adversing execs or sneaky PR gurus – feels even more special and rare. This 2019 clip of Giannis meeting a 11-year-old fan at a signing event, taking a thoughtful minute to look at her artwork and to thank her for the drawings while she cries in happiness and excitement, is one of those special and rare moments.
34. His love for Milwaukee
Let's be honest: If you got a quarter for every fanbase that was CONVINCED that their star player loved their city like no other and was guaranteed to stay there for life, only to watch their favorite son leave town for better money or championship potential, you'd have almost enough money to buy all those fans new jerseys after they burned their old ones.
But I don't think it's naive to say that Giannis feels different. Even since his earliest days in Milwaukee, he's talked about how he enjoys the city and its modestly exciting vibe – from noting in that 2015 Washington Post interview that, "Milwaukee is quiet. It’s a really nice city. I like that it’s quiet," to claiming his loyalty on Twitter and in a New York Times profile two years later. His desire for low-key living and Milwaukee's modest but mighty market hasn't seemed to go sour as time's gone on either, as earlier this year, he told ESPN that he turned down the massive spotlight of "Space Jam 2" not only to keep working out with the team, but because, "I don't like being Hollywood."
With sentiments like that, the on-court success Giannis has found here and now his new deal with Milwaukee, it sounds like we'll be adding to this list for many years to come.