After suffering the humiliation of a “DNP-CD” two years ago, Giannis Antetokounmpo looked up Jason Kidd’s basketball curriculum vitae, and quickly realized he had a lot to learn from his head coach.
Ever since, the two have developed a strong bond, and the results have been undeniable.
— Lee Jenkins (@SI_LeeJenkins) January 3, 2017
The Greek Freak leads Milwaukee in every major statistical category—23.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.9 steals—and will be the first Bucks player to make the All-Star team since Michael Redd in 2004.
When Antetokounmpo reminisces about his rookie year, he sounds as if he is talking about another era and another person. “I was like a kid in the park, seeing all the cities, seeing LeBron and KD, having so much fun. But that kid—the kid with the smoothies—I’m not really that kid anymore.”
Pro sports age everybody. There was the night in his first season when Antetokounmpo’s agent at Octagon, Alex Saratsis, told him that a Bucks assistant coach believed he wasn’t working hard enough. “You can tell me I’m not playing well,” Antetokounmpo replied, tears in his eyes. “You can tell me I’m not doing the right things. But you cannot tell me this. I won’t accept it.” And there was the night in his second season when the Bucks’ new head coach, Jason Kidd, banned him from shooting three-pointers. “I want to shoot threes,” Antetokounmpo argued. “How can I not shoot threes?” Geiger left for the Suns. Morway went to the Jazz. Nate Wolters, Antetokounmpo’s best friend on the team, was waived. “I didn’t know all that would happen,” Antetokounmpo says. “You build these relationships, know these people, and then all of a sudden you get a text in the summer: ‘I’m not coming back.’ What? You get mad. You learn this is a business.”
The first time Kidd benched him, Antetokounmpo was irate. “I was like, ‘Let’s see what this guy did in his career, anyway,’” Antetokounmpo recounts, and called up Kidd’s bio on his phone. “I saw Rookie of the Year, NBA championship, USA Olympic gold medal, second in assists, fifth in made threes, blah, blah, blah. I was like, ‘Jesus freaking Christ, how can I compete with that? I better zip it.’”