Giannis Antetokounmpo started his second consecutive All-Star game in Los Angeles last weekend, finishing with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists. Antetokoumpo’s star has been rising this season with Milwaukee, and the young Greek is set to be a regular at the NBA’s mid-season event for many years to come.
At Friday’s media session, Antetokounmpo still couldn’t believe that just five years into his career, he’s already been selected as an All-Star twice after making his debut last year in New Orleans.
“It’s over my imagination,” he said. “I always had a feeling I could maybe make it in the NBA, but I never thought I’d be 23-years old and be at the All-Star game for a second time, having a chance to win the MVP, carrying a team on my back – that’s over my imagination.”
In what has seemingly become the norm for the phenom from Athens, Antetokounmpo continues to improve further season-by-season. So far in 2017-18, he’s leading the Milwaukee Bucks in scoring, rebound and assists. Despite improvement with his on-court skills, Antetokpunmpo believes the area he has advanced most in is his leadership.
Antetokounmpo is now the team’s clear alpha dog, and it’s a role he is cherishing.
“The only thing I’ve changed this year is I’m more talkative; more vocal,” Antetokounmpo says. “I’m not scared to say my opinions to my teammates. I’m just trying to make them feel comfortable and play hard.”
Rewind back to a late February game in 2016 against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. That night, Antetokounmpo recorded his first ever career triple-double, and after the game Bryant was impressed enough to pull the forward away for a chat. Antetokounmpo says that was a conversation that changed his whole outlook to the game of basketball.
“It was time that made me realize that you gotta work even harder,” he says. “Working hard is not enough – you gotta take it to the next level. When he was talking to me I was looking at the way he was staring at me in the eyes, I could feel what he was taking about.”
Watch Antetokounmpo play this season and you’ll notice a new killer instinct on display. He takes no plays off on the court, and expects nothing less from his teammates. One might even draw comparisons to Bryant – one of the fiercest competitors in the history of the league.
Antetokounmpo has learned a lot by watching Bryant, but he wants to spend some time with him in Los Angeles this summer to, not only work out with the future Hall-of-Famer, but to learn more about what made him so good.
“If I have the opportunity to work with Kobe this summer it’s going to be unbelievable,” Antetokounmpo says. “Even talking with Kobe is going to be an awesome experience. I just want to pick his brain and learn what it takes to win; learn what it takes to be tough. Just learn how to have the ‘Mamba’ mentality. No matter what was going on his life he was showing up on the court and killing people. He was playing hard, and his team won – he has five championships. So learning what it takes to win, and be a leader.”
With the second of his soon-to-be many All-Star appearances complete, and the basketball world at his feet, Antetokounmpo left the NBA with a scary warning if they think he’s going to let up any time soon.
“I’m not even close to my ceiling yet,” he asserts.