Giannis Antetokounmpo Once Had to Hitch a Ride to a Game With Strangers

In Wednesday’s Hot Clicks: the best moments from the Bucks’ Finals win, the USWNT’s early Olympic disappointment and more.
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He’s come a long way

There was a great moment immediately after the Bucks’ Game 6 win over the Suns when ESPN’s cameras captured Giannis sitting by himself in a seat behind the basket, overcome with emotion.

The story of Giannis’s journey to the NBA is well known by now but still amazing. Knowing where he came from and the kind of shy, skinny 18-year-old he was when he first arrived in Milwaukee makes his Finals breakout especially remarkable.

Take, for example, this anecdote from a March 2014 Sports Illustrated article by Chris Mannix:

In December, Antetokounmpo took a taxi from his suburban Milwaukee home to a nearby Western Union. It was a game day, and Antetokounmpo wanted to wire some money to his family in Athens before heading to the arena. He went to the ATM, withdrew some cash and sent it. When he went back to take out more for cab fare, he discovered he had reached his limit. Panicked, Antetokounmpo decided to run the two or so miles to the Bradley. A young married couple pulled up alongside him.

"Are you the Bucks rookie?" they asked.

"Yes," Antetokounmpo said.

"Do you need a ride?"

"Yes, please," Antetokounmpo replied. He hopped into the backseat of the SUV and was dropped off at the arena's front door.

The woman who picked Giannis up was the aunt of Aaron Gleeman, a Twins writer for The Athletic. After the Bucks’ win, Gleeman shared an email from his aunt detailing her encounter with Giannis, who was also underdressed for the cold Milwaukee weather when he decided to jog to the arena. 

It’s easy to envision Giannis, having arrived in the United States only six months earlier, getting flustered when faced with the prospect of having to get to a game on time with no money in his pocket. But it’s endearing that his solution was to just use his own two feet to get there. During these Finals, not only did we witness Giannis take his game to new heights, he also bolstered his reputation as a down-to-earth superstar when his press conference answer about ego and humility went viral. It’s that sort of thoughtfulness that makes him so likable.

Giannis has obviously come a long way since his rookie year, but part of what makes him such a fun player to root for is that, underneath the 50 pounds of muscle he’s added since then, he still seems a lot like the kind of guy who would hitch a ride with a stranger and be awestruck by smoothies.

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I’ll be out of town for the next week or so, but Hot Clicks will continue apace. Michael Shapiro, Chris Chavez and Andrew Gastelum will be filling in for me. 

Email dan.gartland@si.com with any feedback or follow me on Twitter for approximately one half-decent baseball joke per week. Bookmark this page to see previous editions of Hot Clicks and find the newest edition every day. By popular request I’ve made a Spotify playlist of the music featured here. Visit our Extra Mustard page throughout each day for more offbeat sports stories.