Giannis Antetokounmpo is having the best season of his career, averaging career-highs in points (27.5), rebounds (12.7), and assists per game (6.0), as well as field-goal percentage (58.0 percent). He is the frontrunner to win his first league MVP Award, and is a near-lock for All-NBA honors and likely Defensive Player of the Year consideration.
It’s almost hard to believe that Antetokounmpo didn’t start playing basketball until he was 13 years old, and he was a relative unknown when the Bucks took a flyer on him with the 15th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, but Antetokounmpo has gotten better every year he has been the in NBA, bolstered by his incredible work ethic. That work ethic was highlighted by Kobe Bryant, one of the more maniacal stars the league has seen, who had an opportunity to work out with the Bucks superstar over the offseason.
Antetokounmpo famously is against working out with players who are not his teammates during the summer because he finds it hard to be buddies with people he will play against later in the year, and he doesn’t want to give away any secrets of his game. But for a player so concerned with getting better, working with Bryant was an opportunity he could not turn down.
In a Q&A with The Athletic, Bryant revealed what impresses him so much about Antetokounmpo.
Giannis came to work out with me this summer and he showed up one-and-a-half hours early. We talked for 20 minutes before we worked out and he whips out a notepad. What the … he starts taking down notes. ‘What about the footwork here? What about the coverage here?’ And he’s writing them down. After practice same thing; he sits down, and we talked for like an hour. We talked about coverages and defensive match-ups that gave him problems. He just sat there and took notes. And he studied and studied so I’m not surprised at what he’s doing. He just has the mentality of he’s just getting better all the time. He’s just scratching the surface.
Antetokounmpo will have a chance to prove himself on the biggest stage next month, as he hopes to win the first playoff series of his career. There’s no denying that he will put the work in to meet that challenge.