Giannis Antetokounmpo is my guy.
I realize that’s a polarizing statement. Not because anyone doubts the Antetokounmpo’s ability. That’s obvious. The issue is …. am I late to the party?
Picking a new guy is the right of every NBA fan. It’s easy if you’re 10 years old and your hometown team has a star. But if not, there’s a science to hitching your wagon to a young player.
I’ve created 8 simple guidelines for picking a new guy.
1. He can’t be too established
If you walk into the office one day and say “LeBron James is my guy” people will look at you like you’re some kind of weirdo. That’s like saying I think Tom Brady is going to be good. I realize my case for Antetokounmpo is borderline. He averaged 22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game last season.
But … he’s in Milwaukee, a small market, and is still only 22 years old. He hasn’t won a ton of games or gone deep into the playoffs. Hard-core NBA fans know all about him but casual sports fans probably don’t realize how far he’s come in such a short time.
And I do have a strong social media history in favor of Giannis. I go way back with this guy. Well, at least back to April.
2. The player has to be great
That part is easy. Antetokounmpo can play inside or out, can hit his free throws and appears to be a great team player. A big man has no chance to keep up with him and a small guy will get eaten up inside. He can handle the ball, he loves to pass and he can hit his free throws.
I’ve also given a hard look at some other players to become my guy. Joel Embiid plays for my hometown 76ers, but I can’t stand the thought of my guy getting hurt again. Karl-Anthony Towns is great, but he’s a bit less sexy than Antetokounmpo. A bunch of rookies are strong candidates – Jayson Tatum, Dennis Smith Jr., Malik Monk and Donovan Mitchell are sweet. For now, they’re on the “my guy” developmental team.
3. Style over substance
Paul Millsap is a fine NBA player, but that’s not a jersey you see a lot of out-of-town fans rocking. You want someone who has either won a slam dunk contest or is too good to even enter the dunk contest. Not a veteran who will give you a solid 19 points and 9 boards a night. That’s like rooting for an offensive linemen in the NFL or a middle reliever in baseball.
Vince Carter was my guy for years, even though he never reached the NBA Finals. He’s still kind of awesome at 40 in Sacramento. Giannis is my new Vince. His dunks are spectacular and he’s just one of those guys that is fun to watch.
4. Obscurity helps
I lose a lot of points in this department. Nothing is better than finding someone the casual sports fan doesn’t know. There are some hidden “my guy” gems this season – Utah’s Rodney Hood, the Clippers’ 30-year-old rookie Milos Teodosic and Lakers rookie Kyle Kuzma are on my radar. But you don’t want to pick someone who is also hidden on the end of the bench, so I’m sticking with Antetokounmpo.
5. Have supporting evidence of how good your guy is
That’s easy with Antetokounmpo. First of all, you have the numbers. But other players are right with me. Kevin Durant leads the way: “He could end up being the best player to ever play if he really wanted to. That's pretty scary to think about. He's by far my most favorite player to watch.”
I’ve printed that quote out and laminated it to present during all Antetokounmpo-related discussions.
You might want to keep YouTube videos of your guy handy on your phone, and carefully constructed advanced statistics to prove your point. You may not have realized that Antetokounmpo averaged a 7.9 offensive win share last season. Is that good? I have no idea. I don’t even know the right verb to associate with win shares – do you average them? But I do have it memorized.
6. Talk about them often
It’s not always easy to shoehorn Antetokounmpo into your average daily conversation. You have to have your antenna up for opportunities. For example, I just had this conversation the other day.
Me: What should we get for dinner?
My wife: How about a Greek salad?
Me: That reminds me, did you know the Greek Freak averaged a 7.9 offensive win share?
My wife: Do you average a win share?
Me: I have no idea.
Hyperbole is also your friend. Like this Tweet that I hit send on after Antetokounmpo’s 37-point debut Wednesday night ….
7. Loyalty matters
Once you declare someone your guy, you have to put on blinders to any negatives. A missed shot is a missed call by the officials. A turnover is a simple case of a teammate not being ready for a pass. A Bucks loss is probably Matthew Dellavedova’s fault, not Antetokounmpo’s. (That’s actually true.)
Obviously you can prove your allegiance with team gear. I’m writing this mostly so the Bucks will hook me up with a jersey. Or you can go all in with a tattoo. Unfortunately, I’m afraid of needles and there are just too many letters in Antetokounmpo.
8. Don’t be afraid to pivot
Sometimes, your guy just isn’t getting the job done. Like my ill-advised flirtation with Michael Beasley when the Heat drafted him No. 2 overall in 2008. It’s not fair, and kind of flies in the face of point No. 7…. but sometimes you have to move on.
For example, Embiid is a perfectly logical choice to be your guy – he’s great on the court and even better on social media. If he gets hurt … I think it’s OK to jump right over to Ben Simmons. You’ve already been watching 76ers games and the dude’s a 6-10 point guard. If Simmons gets hurt… welcome aboard Markelle Fultz.
You have to have some flexibility. These are just guidelines. Unless you go the tattoo route. Then you want to be very careful. You don’t want to end up looking like this.