In just a few years’ time, Giannis Antetokounmpo has become one of the biggest names in the basketball world. Born in Greece to Nigerian immigrants, Antetokounmpo blossomed as a professional basketball prospect fairly late, and was drafted into the NBA as a “raw” talent. He was widely viewed as a player with intriguing potential, but by no means regarded as a sure thing, even among seasoned NBA scouts and analysts. Since then, it’s safe to say he’s exceeded even the most wildly optimistic expectations.
In 2019, we wrote about Antetokounmpo’s MVP Award, given to the best player in a given NBA season. The one-time mystery prospect had become a bona fide superstar and the most productive player in the best basketball league in the world, earning this honor at just 24 years of age. Recalling how he and his family “started from nothing,” Antetokounmpo was overcome with emotion when he accepted the award, conveying as well as he could have just how surreal it must have felt to him to be in that position. Even more surreal, though, is that it now appears he may have only just been getting started.
For one thing, Antetokounmpo has turned his team, the Milwaukee Bucks, into legitimate championship contenders. That’s not just a confident statement either, but rather one that’s backed up by the official bookies that are most tapped into the current NBA action. With sports betting having been legalized in parts of the United States in just the last year or two, betting experts are now weighing in on the major U.S. sports leagues in a more direct way than we’ve seen in the past. Accordingly, there are U.S. bookies covering the NBA that carry the most up-to-date and accurate projections for how teams ought to fare based on how they’re playing.
Right now, most of those bookies favor the Bucks to be one of the best teams in the league from this point forward. Already, Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to one of the best records in the league through the first half of the season, and the team looks distinctly better than it did a season ago (when it was already the top team in the Eastern Conference). This is despite the loss of one or two key players (most notably Malcolm Brogdon), which leads to one obvious conclusion: Antetokounmpo has elevated his own game even further, to the point that he’s improved a team that looks on paper as if it shouldn’t have improved from last season. The Bucks quite clearly have the best betting odds of any Eastern Conference team to win the 2020 NBA title.
Along the way toward helping his team establish this kind of status, Antetokounmpo has also put himself at the forefront of the MVP conversation for a second year running. The aforementioned NBA bookies primarily cover team odds, but those that do cover probabilities regarding personal awards almost universally have Antetokounmpo out in front. Barring an injury, a drastic decline in his own production, or a miraculous streak from another top player, the Milwaukee star is well on his way to a repeat performance. Said one writer as the season approached its midpoint, Antetokounmpo is the only reasonable choice for the award at this point.
Add it all up and it’s fair to say that Giannis Antetokounmpo – who was born to Nigerian parents in Athens and spent most of his childhood in poverty and obscurity – might well be the best basketball player on the planet.
And he’s still getting better.