By Jimmy Carlton Sportswriter Published Jun 26, 2017 at 10:03 PM

Two Milwaukee Bucks players won prominent individual awards Monday night – one who made the long-legged leap this year from potential-filled up-and-comer whose name many around the NBA couldn’t even pronounce to rising superstar that some believe is a future MVP; the other an oft-doubted and overlooked 2016 second-round draft pick that has now made league history.

Indeed, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Malcolm Brogdon have faced plenty of challenges and overcome more than their fair share of basketball adversity – the former’s rags-to-riches story is well-documented, and the latter was initially dismissed for his age and athleticism – but both were honored for their determination and success at the NBA’s first awards show.

Antetokounmpo was named the league’s Most Improved Player, receiving 80 of 100 first-place votes to become the Bucks’ first such winner. Brogdon won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award, with 64 out of 100 first-place votes, and was in attendance to accept the trophy in New York City.

Antetokounmpo became the fifth player in league history to lead his team in points (22.9), rebounds (8.8), assists (5.4), blocks (1.9) and steals (1.6), ranking in the top 20 in all of those categories. Reflecting his steady, impressive improvement, every single one of those statistics has increased each year over Antetokounmpo’s four seasons, and he also shot a career-best 52.1 percent from the field in 2016-17. In February, he was voted an All-Star Game starter, becoming Milwaukee’s first All-Star since 2004, and last month he was selected to the All-NBA Second Team.

"I’m honored and humbled to be named the NBA’s Most Improved Player and grateful to so many people for helping me reach this point in my young career," Antetokounmpo said in a statement. "Thank you to my family whose love and support means the world to me. Thank you to my teammates, coaches and staff with the Bucks who push me to succeed every day. Thank you to our fans who never stop cheering for us. Thank you."

Last season, Antetokounmpo recorded three triple-doubles, giving him eight for his career and tying him with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most in team history. He was also one of just five players in the NBA in 2016-17 to average more than 20 points per game while shooting at least 50 percent.

Antetokounmpo is currently in Greece and was unable to accept his Most Improved Player award in person, but he pre-recorded a video that the Bucks shared on Twitter.

Earlier on Monday, Antetokounmpo was selected to the NBA's All-Defensive Second Team, while Brogdon was voted to the All-Rookie First Team.

Brogdon, who was taken with the 36th overall pick out of Virginia, became the first player in league history who was not a first-round draft choice to win NBA Rookie of the Year (since 1966). He was also the first player to win it despite not having any Rookie of the Month awards – eight other rookies won monthly honors, exhibiting Brogdon’s low-profile steadiness and season-long consistency – and was the second member of the Bucks all-time to be named Rookie of the Year, joining Abdul-Jabbar in 1969-70.

"I am both humbled and honored to win this award," Brogdon said. "As the oldest rookie to win this award in decades, I know it is the culmination of many special people who believed in me, starting with my mother, and continuing with my owners, my teammates, Coach (Jason) Kidd and the entire Bucks’ staff.

"My five years at Virginia truly prepared me for the NBA and for life after the NBA. Thanks to Coach (Tony) Bennett for a great education in basketball and for making me better. Thanks to the great fans of Milwaukee. Their work ethic truly inspires me every night."

Brogdon averaged 10.2 points – the lowest of any winner – and led all rookies in assists (4.2) and steals (1.1) per game, while ranking second in 3-point field-goal percentage (.404) and free-throw percentage (.865). He also ranked third in field-goal percentage (.457) and fourth in points per game (10.2) among first-year players. Brogdon recorded the first rookie triple-double in team history when he scored 15 points with 12 assists and 10 rebounds against the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 31.

"Malcolm worked tirelessly to improve his game and became a valuable contributor," said Kidd, who won co-Rookie of the Year honors with Grant Hill in 1995. "In fact, he was so reliable it was easy to forget that he was a rookie. Malcolm has a boundless future and we want to congratulate him on winning this well-earned award."

Brogdon, who thanked the Bucks, his teammates and Kidd for trusting in him and giving him playing time as a first-year player, said it took hard work, good decisions and sacrifice to get where he is now. 

"They believe in me, they've given me a tremendous opportunity and it's been a great year. I think this is a testament to the whole organization," Brogdon said of Milwaukee. "I want to say this is a testament to guys that are underestimated, guys that are second-round picks, guys that are undrafted every year that are looked over regardless of the work they put in, regardless of what they do. You can always achieve your dreams if you have faith, if you have sacrifice, you sacrifice for what you want.

"A lot of the time you're not going to fit in, a lot of the time you're going to have to skip those parties, you're going to have to do things other people aren't doing to get to where you want to be. So I just want to say thank you to everybody."

Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.

After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.

Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.