On this Election Day, at the end of what has been a bitterly divisive campaign season, there are still plenty of things that make us shake our heads in disbelief (or our fists in anger) and wonder how we all got to be this churlish, contentious and so very far apart.
And, given the Packers' confusingly disappointing 4-4 record at the midway point of their season, we can't just escape to our Green Bay fandom to find the usual solace with something on which we all amicably agree.
But here's a non-political statement every Wisconsin sports fan, regardless of party or principle, can get behind: Giannis Antetokounmpo is becoming a damn superstar.
(Pregnant pause for dramatic effect, loud cheers and patriotic Bucks flag-waving.)
It's true. It's happening. Right now, already this season, his fourth at the age of just 21 years old, the Greek Freak is developing into what we all idealistically hoped he would be. In the same way that he bounds down the court, covering its full length in a few balletic dribbles, takes off from just inside the free throw line and soars toward the basket for a rousing slam dunk, Antetokounmpo is ascending the NBA ranks, surpassing lesser players and rising toward the league's elite.
OK, it's only been seven games, but my goodness, what a seven games!
Here are some numbers. Antetokounmpo leads the Bucks in almost every major statistical category: points per game (21.1), assists (6.0), steals (1.9), blocks (1.9), minutes (32.6), field-goal percentage (51.3), plus-minus (6.1), usage rate (29.0) and player efficiency rating (27.9). His 8.4 rebounds per game are second on the team.
The only player in Milwaukee franchise history to post a PER of even 24.0 for a season was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who did it five times. Even if his PER at year's end was the in-between average of his current 27.9 and his previous career-high (18.8 last year), he'd still finish with the Bucks' seventh-best season all-time for that all-in-one statistical performance rating.
League-wide, he's one of only two players averaging at least 20.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game (with Russell Westbrook and LeBron James). His 27.9 PER ranks 10th, as do his 2.0 estimated wins added, according to ESPN.
Overall, Antetokounmpo is No. 22 in scoring, No. 24 in rebounds and No. 19 in assists per game. But he stands out more compared to peers around his age. Among NBA players younger than 25 (remember, Giannis is only 21), he is is sixth in points, sixth in rebounds, third in assists and third in PER. The once raw athlete and wide-eyed kid who loved to Euro Step and discover American culture is making major leaps toward the global pinnacle of his profession.
Without question, Antetokounmpo is a top-20 player in the league already. He's arguably in the top 15 and is heading, very quickly, toward the top 10, especially given the age and experience of the guys ahead of him. In a league where team success is largely dependent on having at least one of its few superstars, the Bucks have a player who not only should make his first All-Star Game this season (now that's something to vote for!), but also has a very real chance of being named All-NBA and recognized among the game's best.
Point Giannis has embraced his role as Milwaukee's primary playmaker. After signing a four-year, $100 million contract extension before this season that he said wouldn't stop him from working hard, he has continued to make immense improvements. Antetokounmpo has thrived both as a distributor and a scorer, and he's grown into the team's undisputed leader on the court and also in the locker room. He's still the most endearingly entertaining dude in the NBA.
Antetokounmpo has come a long way in a very short period of time, and it's captivating to imagine what more he can still become. Never mind the politicians on this Election Day, Giannis is the one to make America – or at least Bucks basketball – great again.
I'm with him.
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.