At the end of January, I decided to come up with a nickname for this Milwaukee Bucks team. It didn't go completely unnoticed, as legendary play-by-play man Eddie Doucette, the former voice of the team and the creator of the "The King" nickname for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (and the "sky hook" moniker for his famous shot, saw the post and reached out with a nickname of his own for Giannis Antetokounmpo.
"Saw your article on nicknames which I always had fun with back in the day," Doucette said. "I haven't given it a lot of thought but one that has caught my attention is the "Greek Freak." Frankly, I doubt that referring to someone as a "freak" would be the way that person would like to be depicted. I wonder how our Greek friends have reacted to that?"
"(Giannis) is something special and no doubt will be big news for the city and state for as long as he's there. Hey, he's become a "big cheese" these days who just happens to be from Greece so, why not "the Big Feta?"
Doucette is famous for bestowing nicknames on Bucks players, from dubbing Bobby Dandridge the "Greyhound,"Flynn Robison "The Electric Eye" and Lucius Allen "The Rabbit," among many more.
"Media people would have fun with that one and the fans will love it," Doucette said of "The Big Feta" for Antetokounmpo. "The cheese industry will be induced to come up with a whole new feta "cheesehead" for fans to wear in support of (Giannis). Fun stuff."
There are a couple of interesting things here.
One, Antetokounmpo did not like the "Greek Freak" tag initially.
I remember his opening press conference after he was drafted and someone asked him about it, and the always expressive teenager wrinkled his face and said the same thing Doucette did, that in Greece, "freak" carried a negative connotation.
And, oddly enough, our friend Dan Needles over at WISN received a message from a listener who also didn't like the "Greek Freak" handle.
Just had a viewer chastise me for calling Giannis the "Greek Freak". Said it was rude and mean, and I need to apologize to all fans. Sorry?? — dan needles (@dneedles12) February 10, 2015
Now, Giannis has come to embrace the name. Or, he at least doesn't shrink from it.
But, if Doucette was still in town and calling games, you wouldn't hear it.
"Hey, the way he's going he's 'thee Big Cheese, ah, Beeg Feta in Wisconsin these days,'" Doucette said as if he were on the call. "Nothing demeaning about that handle. The freak thing is not that complimentary. Would you like to be known as a freak? People make fun of freaks, not this kid. Anyway, what Wisconsinite doesn't like some good cheese? Give it a Mediterranean slant and make it a special stand alone. He's heading in that direction.
"Thee Beeg Feta."
After the media cleared out of the Bucks locker room Wednesday night following their 111-103 victory over the Sacramento Kings, I briefed Antetokounmpo on who Doucette was, and then told him the nickname.
"The Big Feta. ... It's a good nickname," he said pulling on a sneaker.
But, he is the practical type.
"If it was my first nickname, it'd be OK. Now it's hard to change."
That may be true, but one thing is for sure: Doucette's interpretation won't be the first time the 20-year-old second-year sensation has a moniker attached to his name, or his game.
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.