Years Ago, Reporters Laughed at Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Ambitions to Win MVP

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo earned his title, the “Greek Freak,” thanks to his unbelievably diverse skillset. The 6-foot-11, 242-pound player can go all-in as a hard-driving power forward. Antetokounmpo can orchestrate the offense as a point guard. He’s selfless and capable of recognizing when sideman Khris Middleton is the better player on the court.

Antetokounmpo has all of the makings of an all-time great NBA player. An obvious candidate to rack up awards, including the elusive league MVP. But it wasn’t always so obvious that this was what life had in store for the NBA Finals winning Bucks hero.

Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t grow up in basketball like a superstar-in-waiting

Giannis Antetokounmpo joined the Bucks officially in 2013. He went No. 15 overall in the draft, outperforming even his own expectations. It was a long journey to that point, after growing up in Athens, Greece as the son of undocumented Nigerian immigrants. Wisconsin Life reports that Antetokounmpo wasn’t exactly a LeBron James-style young player. Late into his teenage years, he was still getting benched by his coaches.

Whatever natural talent the Greek Freak has today was developed slowly over time. It’s hard to imagine from here in 2022, however. EAntetokounmpo won the Most Improved Player award in 2017. That’s well after he joined the league, but years removed from his Finals MVP run. In between, he received a nod as the overall Best Defensive Player of the Year.

Reporters laughed at the notion of Giannis Antetokounmpo becoming an MVP-caliber player

A Bucks fan recently dug up a remarkable bit of footage to show off on his Twitter account. A rookie version of Giannis, looking like a kid compared to today, tells the press what he expects from his burgeoning career: “I want the MVP. I want the MVP, yeah!”

There’s a wave of laughter from the gathered press in response. It’s clear that they’re not being condescending, to be fair. Antetokounmpo is confident in his usual charming way, and they’re mostly reacting to that. But in 2022, he would not draw a friendly chuckle from the press for saying the exact same thing.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out that he is on a very short list of consecutive year MVP winners, after all. There’s no longer anything funny about the idea of the now 27-year-old aspiring to an MVP nod. We all now know what that self-deprecating yet confident boy grew up to be. Antetokounmpo is already, as NBA.com reports, in the company of some of the best NBA players of all time.

Could Antetokounmpo earn the MVP award for 2022?

Giannis Antetokounmpo celebrates with the Larry O'Brien trophy during the Milwaukee Bucks 2021 NBA Championship Victory Parade
Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo celebrates during the 2021 NBA Championship Victory Parade | Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Winning consecutive MVP awards is rare. But for Giannis Antetokounmpo, he managed to earn a near-consensus from the sportswriters and broadcasters who vote on the award, ESPN reports. While he didn’t earn it a third year in a row, he did take home the Finals MVP in 2021.

So, can the Greek Freak do it again? It likely depends on how the playoffs pan out for the Bucks. Action Network reports that Giannis continues to improve, raising an already high assumed ceiling for his skills. He proved himself further by leading a dominant first-round victory over the Chicago Bulls.

His odds went way up after the first game against the Boston Celtics. Middleton was out with an injury. Jrue Holiday got into foul trouble so early on, that the game looked like it would be a wash. For Giannis, it was an opportunity to fill in the gaps. He put up his second career playoff triple-double, making his case for another MVP nod this year stronger than ever.

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