Giannis Antetokounmpo is just a year and a half in to his young NBA career, but already he’s threatening to evolve into the star many around the League have believed he’ll one day become since he was drafted in 2013. From season one to season two his averages have popped from 6.8 to 12.0 points per game and 4.4 to 6.6 boards per game, and he’s put up a few performances that hint at something special, like the 27 and 15 against Houston or the 25 and 6 against the Lakers. Also: These highlights.
Ahead of his participation in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, we caught up with the 20-year-old to talk all things dunking—along with music and, uh, pancakes. Pancakes are awesome.
SLAM: I know you were in New Orleans last year for All-Star Weekend—what was your favorite part?
Giannis Antetokounmpo: All the players being able to be around our families, a nice little break. It was great. My family was there, and I was able to have that experience with my family. It was nice being around such big players—like Kevin Durant was there, James Harden was there. It was really nice.
SLAM: You’re obviously in the Slam Dunk Contest Saturday night—do you remember your first dunk, ever?
GA: Yeah, I was 15. It was in my neighborhood and I was with my brothers, and we were trying to dunk—me and my older brother, Thanasis. My two little brothers were imitating us. Then I had my first dunk.
SLAM: Did all you guys go crazy?
GA: Yeah, we went crazy, because I was there for hours. After two hours I got the dunk. I have a picture of it, too. I still have the picture.
SLAM: Do you have a favorite dunk ever?
GA: No, I don’t have a favorite dunk. When I was announced to be in the Dunk Contest, I went back and watched Larry Nance—he had so many amazing dunks.
SLAM: Did any stand out?
GA: Yeah, he threw the ball from one side of the rim, and he caught it on the other side! His head was above the rim. That was pretty amazing.
SLAM: How about a favorite dunk that you’ve done so far in the NBA?
GA: I’ve done so many dunks that I don’t even remember them. Yeah, one of my favorites was the one I did in Dallas—I took one dribble from the 3-point line and got really high above the rim.
SLAM: What’s better: A big dunk when there’s no one around where you can fly through the air or dunking in someone’s face?
GA: I like dunking on top of someone, you know? You get momentum for the team and get more energy, and it gives me more confidence.
SLAM: Which NBA players do you like to watch dunk?
GA: I like Russell Westbrook’s dunks. He’s killing the rim. He dunks with a lot of force.
SLAM: I remember at All-Star last year you got a lot of questions about your newfound love of smoothies. In the year since, is there any other aspect of American culture that you’ve discovered?
GA: Give me 15 seconds, let me think. [15 silent seconds pass] Oh! Pancakes! Yeah, pancakes.
SLAM: You hadn’t had pancakes before you moved to the States?
GA: No, I never had pancakes. In Europe, they have crepes. Pancakes was something that I had here in America. They’re the best. Every morning I love pancakes, with a lot of syrup. I fill the bowl with syrup first, then after that I dip the pancake on top of it. I put some strawberries, too.
SLAM: That’s amazing. What about music? Have you been introduced to new music?
GA: Most of the time, my teammates introduce me to new songs and new artists. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Justin Timberlake, Drake, Tupac. But it’s a little different from Europe, because we like more house music, I think. When I go to Europe, there’s [a lot of] house music. Here it’s more about hip-hop, R&B and stuff like that.
SLAM: Did you teach your teammates about stuff that you listened to back home?
GA: No, no. I did not.
SLAM: You don’t think anybody would be interested in it?
GA: I don’t think so. They’d be like, Giannis, what is this that you’re listening to?
Adam Figman is a Senior Editor at SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @afigman.