Draft day comparisons are a traditional and common way of evaluating the fresh set of players entering the NBA to understand their style of play and ceiling better. Even though Giannis Antetokounmpo came into the NBA idolizing Kevin Durant, scouts weren’t so keen on him, as they compared him to another European forward, Nicholas Batum.
The raw talent was there, with impressive psychical intangibles and the prospect of becoming a dangerous player. But considering the lack of professional experience and strength, not too many experts were sure Giannis would be able to adapt to the NBA and the physicality of the game. So to be compared with a pretty good player like Batum seemed like a fair comparison to the broad public. But for Giannis, it presented a personal challenge to prove people wrong.
In the book called “The Improbable Rise Of An NBA MVP” by Mirin Fader, centered around the career of Giannis Antetokounmpo, a great story was told about one of the events that helped Giannis propel to the next level.
Back in 2015, while Giannis was still a young player on the rise, ready to excel to the next level, a particular event set an even bigger fire under him. Before a game versus the Charlotte Hornets, which had his draft-day comparison Batum matched up with him, Giannis sat down on the bench before the game, observing Batum’s warm-up. Bucks assistant coach Josh Oppenheimer was next to Antetokounmpo, trying to encourage him by saying he could be a Batum-like player if he puts in the work. Even though Oppenheimer had all the good intentions, Giannis would simply scoff and respond:
“Coach, if I become Nicolas Batum, I’m going back to Greece.”Giannis Antetokounmpo, “The Improbable Rise Of An NBA MVP”
At first, this may seem a bit disrespectful to Batum, but Giannis was only aware of his ceiling being much bigger. Batum was a great all-around player at the time, averaging 14.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, and 5.8 apg, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy Giannis’s ambitions. As we can see now, Giannis was right, becoming a perennial All-Star, DPOY,2x MVP, and now NBA champion and Finals MVP at the top of the NBA. The rise to the top was long and challenging. Still, Giannis’s loyalty and admirable work ethic paid off in the end, as he brought a championship to the city of Milwaukee, becoming the hero of the city and by many proclaimed the best player in the world now.