Kevin Durant? Corny in ways we are only beginning to understand. Kawhi Leonard? Boring. LeBron James? A bald dad. James Harden? Beards are out. Russell Westbrook? Okay, he’s still pretty cool, but what I am getting at here is this: we are headed, at this very moment, directly into the Year of Giannis Antetokounmpo. It is going to be good as hell.
The Greek Freak, who is somehow still just 22 years old, destroyed the Celtics last night, kicking off the season with a 37-point, 13-rebound performance. You don’t need to see all of the highlights, but you do need to see this play:
As The Starters’ Tas Melas pointed out, that bucket was so ridiculous that Aron Baynes didn’t even believe the ball had gone through the hoop. Watch him corral the rock and hurriedly hand it to Kyrie Irving, like he was cleaning up a miss. Can you even blame him? How is it even possible for someone to finish an alley-oop from that distance and angle?
It’s not, is generally the answer, although more specifically it is only possible because Giannis Antetokounmpo discovered an affinity for basketball as a child. This is all to say that there really is no player that can do all the things Giannis can do in the NBA right now. That feels dumb and looks wrong, given how many impossibly large and dexterous men currently populate NBA rosters, but you saw the dunk. You know it’s just the truth.
So here’s the thing to think about as this NBA season gets underway: Giannis has gotten noticeably better at basketball during every season he’s been in the league. There has been no backsliding or stalling of the sort you see when a young player is still finding his footing. It’s just a relentless climb towards stardom.
Last year, he was good enough to make the All-Star team. If his rapid rise continues this season, where does that put him? What happens if Giannis shoots better than 52 percent from the field, scores more than 22.9 points per game, grabs more than 8.8 rebounds per game, and dishes more than 5.4 assists per game? What if he does all that while still averaging 1.6 steals and 1.9 blocks per game? It’s tough to imagine that sort of stat line, but somehow easy to see Giannis Antetokounmpo might go about putting it up. Doing so would make him the sort of player capable of commanding the attention of the entire league despite playing in Milwaukee and in the same era as the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Durant. It might even make him the MVP.