Giannis Antetokounmpo has become one of the NBA’s biggest stars over the past three seasons, but with the territory of winning back-to-back MVPs (and a DPOY as well) comes plenty of scrutiny. For all of the things Giannis does incredibly well, his struggles shooting the ball both from the perimeter and the free throw line have often come into focus at this time of year, particularly when looking at the reasons why the Bucks have fallen short of the NBA Finals in each of the last two years.
This year, the Bucks are tied 1-1 with the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals after dropping Game 1 and blowing out Atlanta in Game 2, with Giannis being undoubtedly the best player for Milwaukee through the first two games. It’s a matchup that suits Giannis, but he’s also shown his growth as a player this playoffs, shrugging off last year’s playoff demons in the first round in sweeping Miami and then making some needed adjustments in his approach against Brooklyn to lead the Bucks from an 0-2 deficit to a seven-game win.
Through all of the criticism of his lack of offensive versatility in terms of where he can consistently score from, Giannis has managed to maintain the same positive attitude that he has always shown throughout his career. On Sunday morning, a video went viral of Giannis at Bucks practice, happily going over all his lowest moments with PJ Tucker, saying he’s “seen it all,” been at the bottom, and can only go up from there.
It is a lovely window into what makes Giannis great. He is an impossibly positive person who is capable of letting his lowest moments on the court become not just something to learn from but something he’ll make jokes about. He shrugs off ugly misses to continue attacking and continue trying to get back to the rim, even amid his free throw line struggles, with the stubborn belief he’ll make both next time if he gets sent there. It is the exact thing that Scottie Pippen pointed to as the biggest difference between Giannis and Ben Simmons, who similarly struggles at the free throw line (although, shooting them at an even worse rate this postseason).
Giannis will get right back up and charge down the lane again, while Simmons hasn’t found this mentality yet to shrug off the misses and keep attacking. It takes a ridiculous amount of mental fortitude and a positivity that is really hard to manufacture artificially. Giannis just has that and it’s why, despite his flaws, he remains a dominant force who never shies away from the moment, even if sometimes he fails.