The Milwaukee Bucks were as well-represented at NBA All-Star Weekend in 2017 as they have been in years, with members of the organization competing in three different on-court events, as well as attracting attention at media sessions, team practices and even during a mascot contest.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was voted in by fans as a starter for the Eastern Conference, was the franchise’s first All-Star since 2004, and he put on a show in the game Sunday. But before that, Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry balled out a little bit in the Celebrity Game, and second-round rookie Malcolm Brogdon made a Wisconsin-connected friend in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday. No Milwaukee players competed in any of the Saturday events, but we’d like to think Giannis would have triumphed in at least the Dunk Contest, if not the Skills Challenge too, had he taken part.
It was a whirlwind weekend, some of which you might have missed enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. Here are my 10 favorite things from All-Star Weekend in New Orleans, in chronological order from Friday to Sunday night:
1. Marc Lasry, Moroccan Freak
Before the Celebrity Game on Friday, Lasry wore a No. 23 Bucks warmup shirt that said "Moroccan Freak" – 23 because it’s his favorite number, as both his and his wife’s birthday, "Moroccan Freak" because he was born in Morocco and it’s a nod to Giannis, the Greek Freak. Lasry said he was going for MVP of the game, and Antetokounmpo revealed that he and the owner had a bet on who was going to score more points, adding "Hey, it’s all about Freaks."
Wearing uniform No. 5 in the actual game, Lasry scored nine points, which the Bucks said was his career-high. It’s unclear if that includes his college career as a basketball player at Clark University, but a nice job by the boss either way.
2. Giannis’ brother met DJ Khaled
Irrepressible entertainer DJ Khaled was all over New Orleans during NBA All-Star Weekend, which anyone who follows his relentless Snapchat would surely know. On Friday night, Giannis, with the appropriate amount of incredulity, said that Khaled, who performed during halftime of the All-Star Game, was one of his little brother’s idols. The elder Antetokounmpo helped facilitate a meeting between little bro and big DJ.
"It’s really cool. I’ve never seen my brother nervous," Antetokounmpo said. "I don’t know, he looks up to DJ Khaled; that’s crazy. He was nervous but he was really happy, so it’s just all about the smile he had on his face."
3. Brogdon represented as Rising Star
Second-round draft picks aren’t often selected for the Rising Stars Challenge – formerly called the Rookie-Sophomore Game – but Brogdon’s impressive campaign (averaging 9.4 points, 4.2 assists and shooting 41.7 percent on three-pointers in all 55 Bucks games, he’s among the league leaders in multiple NBA rookie categories) earned him a spot.
Before the game, Brogdon, seemingly always prepared with the right response in any situation, was asked about the honor. "It’s amazing," he said. "This is only the beginning for me. I need to come back (after the break) with even more of an edge, playing with this type of talent and understanding that there’s a higher level. I’m looking forward to going out and representing the organization."
4. Brogdon-Kaminsky bromance
The freewheeling nature of the Rising Stars Challenge doesn’t lend itself to Brogdon’s disciplined game, but the 24-year-old still found a way to make an impact and said he’d remember the experience for the rest of his life. In Team USA’s 150-141 loss to the World, Brogdon made 1 of 5 shots and had three points, five assists and four rebounds – his one basket coming on a fun baseline dunk and-one. But a few of his five assists went to Charlotte big man Frank Kaminsky, the fun-loving former Badgers star with whom he clearly had a connection.
"Frank’s a good guy, he’s a funny guy, always joking, always laughing, so we get along," Brogdon said. "And then, on the court he’s an IQ guy, he can shoot, pass, do a little of everything, so I like playing with him." Added Kaminsky of Brogdon: "It’s just easy to play with a guy like him." Aww!
5. Bingo for Bango
We’ve seen him do this countless times at Bucks games, but Bango made the other league mascots look like amateurs in the over-the-head-from-half-court shot contest on Friday.
With 60 seconds on the clock, mascots were to take turns attempting the trick shot until one made it. Going second, it took just one mascot who missed before him and only eight seconds for Bango to win the contest.
Tonight at #BBVARisingStars, @BucksBango let everyone know who the best mascot in the NBA is!!
There were no free @QdobaWI tacos tho... 😞 pic.twitter.com/wJfTAszS04 — Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 18, 2017
6. Moncrief a Hall of Fame finalist
Bucks great Sidney Moncrief on Saturday was named a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Class of 2017. Moncrief, who was drafted fifth overall in 1979, spent more than a decade in Milwaukee and became a fan favorite.
A two-time NBA Defensive Player of the year, four-time All-Defensive First-Teamer, five-time All-Star and First-Team All-NBA selection in 1982-83, after his career Moncrief was a Bucks announcer from 2013-15.
7. Giannis got a Carmelo compliment
Before the All-Star Game on Sunday, Antetokounmpo, who said he was shocked at the media attention, admitted he was nervous not only to be Milwaukee’s first selection in more than a decade, but also to be a starter with the game’s best players. He said Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony told him he just needed to get that first layup and he’d be fine, adding Antetokounmpo was "too big to be nervous." A layup? Really?
Was that a commentary on Giannis’ fast-rising stardom, or just a reference to the 6-foot-11 point-forward’s lengthy and athletic size? Anthony, who has a little bit of history with Antetokounmpo, later said, "I saw he was antsy, and I said just play your game, you’re too tall to be nervous; with a name like the Greek Freak you can’t be nervous out here."
8. Other players sang Giannis' praises
Game recognize game in the NBA, and who better than Antetokounmpo’s All-Star peers to assess his ability? Said Warriors forward Draymond Green, "Every year, he continues to get better. You can tell he works on his game, he loves it, he wants to be great, he plays with passion." Said Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, "He’s amazing, man. Well-deserving to be an All-Star; it’s cool to see somebody young like that taking over and dominating – he’s really fun to watch." Added Hornets guard Kemba Walker: "He’s having a great year, he’s unbelievable. Every time I watch a highlight he’s doing something crazy, like he just jumped from the free-throw line the other night; he’s a special talent in our league."
Pelicans center DaMarcus Cousins had this to say: "He’s a freak, man. I’m a huge fan of his game. His versatility is something that the league hasn’t really seen; he can dominate a game without even scoring a bucket. You can just tell his confidence and his skill level is growing every year." Hawks forward Paul Milsap called Antetokounmpo a "very talented, very gifted player, especially with the size he has." And Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry said, "It’s just unbelievable – his talent, his ability to do what he does on the floor, passing, playmaking, his length. He’s really talented, man; you’ve got to respect it."
9. Giannis played like an All-Star
Antetokounmpo bookended the game for his team, scoring the East’s first basket on a powerful dunk and ending the event with another authoritative jam, one of many he threw down on the night. In between, Antetokounmpo blocked Anthony Davis, pickpocketed James Harden, grabbed six rebounds, made 14 of 17 (very-close-to-the-basket) shots and scored a team-high 30 points in 23 minutes.
His 12 dunks included windmills, alley-oops, reverses, follow-slams and more, and his teammates seemed genuinely eager to play with him – like he was a new, fun toy – tossing him lobs and looking for his creative passes. Afterward, Antetokounmpo said, "It was amazing, the experience was unbelievable. I hope all the fans enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed it. I was this close to bringing the MVP home, but Coach kept me out too long." Thanks, Brad.
10. Giannis put Steph on a poster
It was not long after Warriors superstar guard Steph Curry playfully laid down on an Antetokounmpo fast break, ostensibly so as not to be victimized again by trying to defend the Greek Freak, that Giannis showed the two-time MVP no mercy.
In the third quarter, after a shot by George missed and bounced off the rim, Antetokounmpo rose up high over the jumping-in-vain Curry, caught the ball above him and dunked it down on poor Steph’s head. The slam elicited this amazing reaction from Jordan, and had players in the game watching the jumbotron to see replays of the carnage.
What was your favorite Bucks thing that happened during All-Star Weekend? It was Giannis' Curry abuse, wasn't it?
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 CBSSports.com, 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.