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Giannis Antetokounmpo to compete in Skills Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend

Feb 6, 2014, 6:14 PM EDT

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Typically, rookies don’t get noticed. Typically, players from overseas need more time to build an American following. Typically, Milwaukee Bucks are ignored.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is definitely atypical.

“The Greek Freak” has wowed fans all season with his long arms, diverse skillset and outward happiness.

He’s been so impressive, he’ll be competing in Skills Challenge – a speed drill that tests dribbling, passing and shooting – during NBA All-Star Weekend, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

An invite to to the Skills Challenge hardly constitutes “making it,” but for Antetokounmpo, it’s sure recognition of his incredible progress. Drafted No. 15 out of a third-rate Greek league and the NBA’s youngest player this season, Antetokounmpo was widely viewed as a project – and he is.

Yet, his skills have shined so brightly, they can’t be ignored.

Just six rookies had ever competed in the Skills Challenge since its 2003 inception. Most of them (Damian Lillard,* Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose and Chris Paul) went onto win Rookie of the Year.**

*Last year, Lillard became the first rookie to win the Skills Challenge.

**The two exceptions: John Wall and Brandon Jennings. Wall led his draft class in Rookie of the Year voting, but Blake Griffin, who began his NBA career a year late due to injury, won the award. Jennings had a historically great first half to his rookie season.

Antetokounmpo certainly isn’t a Rookie of the Year favorite, and it seems two candidates ahead of him – Michael Carter-Williams and Trey Burke – would have been more logical options for the Skills Challenge. That’s because they’re point guards.

Positional definitions can get tricky at times, but whatever Antetokounmpo is, he definitely can’t be pigeonholed as a point guard. The last non-point guard in the Skills Challenge was Dwyane Wade in 2008, and LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are the only other non-point guards to ever compete. Until now, being a superstar was the only way to clear the positional barrier of entry to the event.

So, no, a Skills Challenge invite isn’t a crowning achievement for Antetokounmpo. But he incredibly cleared many obstacles to get this far.

What are a few more on All-Star Saturday Night?

  1. asimonetti88 - Feb 6, 2014 at 6:52 PM

    This kid is fun to watch and could really develop into something for Milwaukee. Nice pick by John Hammonds, gotta give credit where credit is due.

    • moseskkim - Feb 7, 2014 at 1:11 PM

      good pick. he wont do well in the skills challenge though. he might take a minute making the jumpshots

  2. jimtron11 - Feb 6, 2014 at 10:49 PM

    SF Sophomore Khris Middleton was as solid off-season addition for Milwaukee, too. He’s averaged 13.5 points, 5 boards, 2.5 assists as a starter, and has scored double-figures for nine-straight games. Not bad for a throw-in in the Brandon Jennings-Brandon Knight trade. The Bucks have some legitimate building blocks.

  3. huskerguy - Feb 6, 2014 at 11:56 PM

    He’s the only thing fun on this Milwaukee team. Sigh… Moncreif?? Anyone out there? Pierce?? Big Dog??

  4. shaggytoodle - Feb 7, 2014 at 12:01 AM

    Its tough being a Bucks fan

    It sucks because a few seasons ago they want on that great tear after the All Star break and just makes you wonder what could have been if Bogut didn’t get hurt that season.

    I can tough out watching a below average team that tries to go about the game the right way with defense and smart basketball while focusing on fundamentals.

    That’s far from the case this season Giannis is just about the only reason to watch a game right now.

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