Unlike guys like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn't supposed to be an NBA superstar.
Coming out of Greece, nobody was quite sure what to expect from a young Giannis. He only averaged 24 minutes per game in his rookie season.
But, over time, Antetokounmpo transformed into the star we know him as today -- and stands proudly as the 2021 Finals MVP. While Giannis' hard work is most to blame for his growth as a player, he took a page out of Russell Westbrook's book in regards to his mentality and approach to the game.
“He had to practice it because he’s not that guy,” said Skip Robinson, the then Bucks vice president of community relations and player development. “He’s a lovable guy. A nice gentleman.”
Giannis didn’t want to be seen as a nice gentleman on the court; he wanted to be seen as someone who would tear your heart out. He tried to pattern his scowl after Russell Westbrook’s scowl. Giannis loved Westbrook: his demeanor, his speed, but especially his scowl. Giannis came into practice once, scowling and grunting. “This is my new thing,” Giannis told his teammates.
Giannis has always been one to go against the status quo. In a time where stars are becoming best friends (both on and of the court), Antetokounmpo would rather be feared and respected by his competitors.
It may have taken years, but it's safe to say Giannis is at that point now.
Throughout these playoffs, he elevated his game to new heights, leading the Bucks to a dominant run through the East and the NBA Finals. He did anything and everything on the court, grabbing blocks and scoring points -- capping off his season with a 50-point, 14 rebound performance.
And now, he gets to enjoy the fruits of his labor.