Giannis Antetokounmpo is the Milwaukee Bucks’ franchise player and the reigning NBA finals MVP. Antetokounmpo receives most of the headlines, and rightly so. But the two-time Most Valuable Player Award winner is consistently the first to deflect praise onto someone other than himself. There’s one teammate in particular, though, that has been with Antetokounmpo from the start. One teammate he says is a “big-time player” that makes the Bucks “great.” That would be the Robin to his Batman, Khris Middleton.
Middleton landed in Milwaukee the same year The Greek Freak did. The two have been building together ever since, and Antetokounmpo has made it known on multiple occasions that he wouldn’t be where he is today without the former Texas A&M standout.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has credited Khris Middleton as a key part of his development
The pair arrived in Milwaukee prior to the 2013-14 season. Antetokounmpo was the 15th overall pick in the 2013 draft, while Middleton came to the Bucks as a throw-in piece in a deal that brought point guard Brandon Knight to the Cream City. Giannis and Khash have been together through ownership changes, new coaches, and GM replacements.
Prior to a winner-take-all Game 7 in last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Brooklyn Nets, Antetokounmpo praised his teammate in an article by Kane Pittman on SportingNews:
“This is my eighth year in the NBA. Before I got in the NBA I played six years so I’ve played 14 years of basketball and eight years I’ve played with this guy, No. 22, Khris Middleton.
“We know that when he feels good we’ve got to give him the ball. He’s never scared of those moments. It’s been an amazing eight years having him next to me, he’s always ready and he’s going to give the best he has.”Giannis Antetokounmpo on Bucks teammate Khris Middleton
Antetokounmpo has always recognized the impact Middleton has on winning
The 6-foot-11 Milwaukee centerpiece singlehandedly closed out the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the 2021 NBA Finals. Antetokounmpo dominated to the tune of 50 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 blocks.
But the Athens native wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to reach that close-out game had it not been for Middleton.
Khash averaged 23.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 5.1 assists during last year’s playoffs. He shot 39% from deep on 7.6 attempts per game.
The Bucks’ biggest postseason struggle came against the short-handed Brooklyn Nets. It took everything Milwaukee could throw at Kevin Durant and his giant toe for the team to even get past the second round in its championship run. In the Bucks’ four wins that series, Middleton averaged more than 28 points per game.
The 6-7 wing isn’t Milwaukee’s best player, but he might be its most important. The franchise’s championship run proved that the Bucks go as Middleton goes, as Antetokounmpo pointed out in the same SportingNews story:
“When he’s making shots you know you’ve got to get him the ball. I just know how to play with him. He’s a big time player and he makes this team great.”Antetokounmpo on Middleton’s importance on the floor
Giannis Antetokounmpo is all about family, and in this case, Khris Middleton is his Bucks brother
The pair is most definitely not twins on the court. While Giannis will mean mug anyone he can find after an emphatic dunk, Middleton will drain a mid-range jumper in a defender’s face and jog back on defense without any noticeable reaction.
But the duo also has plenty in common. Antetokounmpo was an unknown teenager from Greece when he arrived in the NBA. Middleton was a forgotten second-round pick when he joined Giannis in Milwaukee. Neither had lofty expectations heaped on him. But both have flipped that narrative completely over the past eight seasons.
Antetokounmpo wouldn’t be where he is without Middleton, and vice versa. The two share a bond, on and off the court. Superstars like Antetokounmpo want the ball down the stretch of close games, and the 2019-20 Defensive Player of the Year is no different.
But the level of trust between him and Middleton is deeper than most NBA duos, as he said via FoxSports:
“I trust this guy to death. If he wants the ball, he gets it. Simple as that.”Antetokounmpo on deferring to Khris Middleton
All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.