If you haven’t been paying attention to the numbers freak specimen and all-around monster Giannis Antetokounmpo has been putting up, wake up, because he’s hungry. He has and will continue to dominate both ends of the floor, stuffing the stat sheet each night. Additionally, and perhaps even more impressive, Giannis has adopted and cultivated a leadership position at the ripe old age of 21 years old. Let me repeat that, he is the conclusive leader of an entire NBA roster at 21 years old. 21! If you think his production is impressive, just wait until you hear his candor when addressing leadership pressure.
Statistically, Giannis leads the Bucks in just about every common stat. He is the leader in points per game at 21.1, assists per game at 6.0, steals per game at 1.9, blocks per game at 1.9, and on top of that, plays a team leading 32.6 minutes a game. He is second in rebounds per game at 8.4, and second only by a margin of 0.2 to Greg Monroe. Additionally, he’s shooting the ball at an impressive 51.3% considering he takes, on average, 16.1 shots per game. To lead a team in five of the six major stats at any age is a feat on its own, but to lead a team in that many stats at 21, and be considered the leader of a team whose average age is five years above Giannis is unprecedented.
While production on the court is ultimately what wins games, often overlooked in a team’s success is quality leadership. Giannis has been given the keys to a high achieving core of young talent in Milwaukee, and he has no problem with that; he embraces it. Head Coach Jason Kidd recognized what Giannis’ role would become in the future, a leader, and generally that takes time with any player and can even be met with poorer performance due to an increase in pressure. Giannis, being the coaching dream he is, never let those thoughts of doubt distract him from improving. Actually, he considers his new role a maturation process which, again, is absurd coming from a 21-year old. Per the Wisconsin State Journal, this what Giannis had to say in response to moving into a leadership role.
“The thing it means is that I’m getting more mature. This is my fourth year in the league. I think I’m one of the oldest guys on the team. I’ve just got to become a leader. That’s part of the game. I’m growing up. I’m about to turn 22 so I’ve got to step up.”
This statement is beyond impressive and should excite any true Bucks fan. At age 21, NBA players are either just entering the league, or trying to figure out how to succeed in a league that devours youth. Giannis, however, considers 21 to be an age where he must take the next step. In addition to dominating on the court, Giannis believes he must be the vocal centerpiece of an up and coming talent that is the Milwaukee Bucks, a truly confident claim.
Some may wonder how an athlete so hyped up and simultaneously scrutinized can be so composed and comfortable with a mentorship role. According to an interview conducted by the NBPA (National Basketball Players Association), Giannis’ father Charles says that’s simply the character Giannis has had since childhood.
“The way that he mentors all of his brothers is amazing,” his father, Charles, says. “He will do anything for them. He will spare nothing to make sure that they have exactly what they need. He teaches them about basketball, about life, about priorities. It’s really great to see all of the things that I am passing on to Giannis he is passing on to them.”
If those aren’t the building blocks for an influential mentor and leader, then I don’t know what are. Giannis already has the social skill set to become a great leader, and if he can gain the trust and support of his fellow teammates, a truly beautiful, self sustaining basketball ecosystem could be on the horizon.