“This Is a Rookie At 17…. That’s Your Comparison?”: Giannis Antetokounmpo Left Former Teammate Stunned by Playing Like Kevin Durant From the Onset of His Career

Published 05/11/2022, 12:30 PM EDT
Jan 18, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets power forward Kevin Durant (7) and Milwaukee Bucks power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) fight for a jump ball during the second quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Giannis Antetokounmpo is a generational talent, but many didn’t see that when he entered the NBA as a lanky young kid. But his teammate Larry Sanders said that he saw what Giannis could do and compared him to Kevin Durant. KD was the NBA MVP in 2014, which was the same year the Bucks drafted Giannis.

Larry Sanders sat down with Gilbert Arenas for his ‘No chill with Gilbert Arenas’ podcast. Larry Sanders was playing for the Milwaukee Bucks when Giannis was drafted. So he was asked whether he thought Giannis would be as good as he is at the moment. And without any delay, Larry said, “Hell yeah”. So Arenas asked, “You have seen it!”. Sanders said “The kid was impressive. I mean he was 17 man. You could see it. He had the talent like, it was just rare. Like, Kevin Durant was the only person that was doing you know you can say was like moving how he was moving at the time you know what I’m saying.”

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Sanders himself talked about questions that might arise from comparing a rookie with a superstar like Durant. He said that Giannis’ game was unique and that he had a fun personality. Sanders said that Giannis was having fun whenever he was given the chance.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo’s emergence

The Milwaukee Bucks selected Giannis Antetokounmpo as the 15th overall pick in 2013. In his first year in the NBA, he averaged 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 77 games while playing 24.6 minutes per game.

In the next year, Giannis doubled his scoring average with improved minutes of 31.4 per game. He averaged 12.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in 81 games. While he only started 23 games in his first season, he started 71 of 81 games in his second.

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Jul 20, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) accepts the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award from NBA commissioner Adam Silver after game six of the 2021 NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Giannis in his fourth season averaged 22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. 

If Larry Sanders or anyone else would have made the comparison between Giannis and KD during Giannis’ early years, most fans would have laughed. Durant averaged 20 points in his rookie season and he won the Rookie of the Year award. 

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But Giannis’ development has been breathtaking. The lanky young kid was nowhere to be seen now. He gradually grew into his body as he put on some required weight. This has made him the most dominant player in the NBA today. While Kevin has one MVP award so far to his name, Giannis has two. And he also helped the Milwaukee Bucks to win their first title in almost fifty years.

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Bagavathi Eswaran

303 articles

Bagavathi Eswaran is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. He has been playing the game of basketball for more than 20 years now and has also been following the NBA for more than 10 years. After not being able to go pro, this former college player decided to join the IT industry.

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