You can’t really define funky, you just know it when you see it.
I’m not talking about the musty odoriferousness of the hipster sitting next to you on the subway right now who smells like he’s been wrasslin’ with an alligator. I’m pontificating on that unquantifiable quality of cool, magnetic, hypnotizing brilliance that only a true artist can conjure.
The funk drips from a Dr. Dre beat, a lyrically scientific production from Prince, or something conjured up in the deep recesses of Mr. Fingers‘ musical mind, as it does whenever the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka The Greek Freak, hits the basketball court with his own brand of some serious Machine Gun Funk.
Antetokounmpo has gone from an intriguing prospect to a certifiable NBA MVP candidate who, barring injury, will be a perennial All-Star for the next ten to twelve years. At the age of 22 and the league’s tallest point guard, he has the potential to redefine the position like Magic Johnson once did, but with a length, athleticism, hops and defensive acumen that shuts down fast breaks and alters shots in ways that the league has literally not seen in one package.
Most NBA fans are familiar with his background as the son of Nigerian parents, his father a former soccer player and mother a former track and field standout as a high jumper, who hustled on the streets of Athens, Greece, selling watches and trinkets to help make ends meet at home. Those experiences, selling bootleg knockoffs to get enough money for a decent meal, with the ever-present threat of being deported back to Nigeria, have informed his current work ethic and hunger.
Ask the casual fan about the best NBA point guards today. Some will mention Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Steph Curry, John Wall, Kemba Walker or Isaiah Thomas. The more astute followers of the game will correctly include LeBron James. But quietly, hidden in the shadows on LeBron’s incandescence and Westbrook and Harden’s rare, historically bananas statistical seasons is the work of Antetokounmpo.
He leads Milwaukee in every major category, averaging 24 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals per game. The last All Star that the franchise could boast of was Michael Redd, back when Baxter was getting punted off the Coronado Bridge and Latrell was tearing up the dance floor trying to impress Tiffany, who was really Marcus, back in 2004. This year, the Greek Freak will begin his long reign among the elite of the NBA’s elite.
Five years ago, he was a street kid peddling Canal Street Michael Kors bags. Today, he’s a 6-foot-11 multimillionaire with a 7-foot-3 wingspan who is as tall as Kevin Durant, with hands bigger than Wilt Chamberlain’s, and a hunger to succeed that will never go away.
Most people will see his scoring, passing, three-pointers and dunks and fall in love. Purists will stand open-mouthed, in awe of his ability to chase down blocks, cover insane amounts of hardwood real estate in the blink of an eye, the timing as he elevates to block shots at the rim and on the perimeter and how he singlehandedly extinguishes fast breaks with his mere defensive presence in transition.
As a rookie three years ago, he averaged 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.8 blocks in 77 games while leading all NBA newcomers with 61 blocks. During his second season, where he only missed one of the team’s games en route to helping Milwaukee secure the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, he set the league on notice with his 27-point, 15-rebound outburst against the Rockets.
But last year is when folks really took notice, especially after Milwaukee handed Golden State thier first loss of the season. In mid-November, he gave LeBron and the Cavs 33 points. His 27-point, 12-rebound and 10-assist outing against the Lakers earned him the distinction, at 21 years old, as being the franchise’s youngest ever to mess around and catch a Triple-Double.
In a torrid 11-game stretch, he posted four triple dubs, culminating with a 28-point, 11-rebound, 14-assist monster against the Nets.
To the surprise of many, head coach Jason Kidd anointed the young fella as the Bucks point guard this year. But Antetokounmpo has answered the call, in addition to inking a four-year contract extension valued at $100 Million. He opened the year by dropping 31 points in Milwaukee’s opening game and hasn’t looked back since. He needs one more triple-double to tie Kareem Abdul Jabbar with the most in franchise history. And he’s just getting started.
He closed out 2016 with 35 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and a ridiculous seven blocks against Chicago on New Year’s Eve. In 2017 and beyond, he’s poised to take the basketball world by storm.
The Bucks are an impressive 15-5 at home this year and currently sit in prime position to make some playoff noise. If they can turn the corner of being more competitive on the road, with an intriguing young core roster of Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Greg Monroe, Malcolm Brogdon, John Henson, Khris Middleton and Thon Maker, Jason Kidd has the ingredients to cook up some mouth-watering basketball dishes in the near future.
Antetokounmpo has come so far in such a short period of time. So don’t miss out of the next great NBA come-up.
From selling bootleg jewels on the street a few years ago to now telling the league’s best players to ante up and run their damn jewels, The Greek Freak is coming to make his mark in a way that very few saw coming.
The Funk, Baby!