The Greek Freak is killing the NBA: how a wonderful person is in conflict with an organization’s core values and audience expectations

“…so ….efficient!”  The sportscaster was struggling to find the right words after the Bucks won the championship.  Giannis Antetokounmpo had some pretty impressive stats.  But other than a few blocks was he spectacular?  No, of course not.  He never is.  Despite his unique physical gifts, the man can’t even make a cool dunk.  Unless you are Greek or a Bucks fan, the game he plays is boring.  It is…European.  As an NBA fan I am disappointed.  I think Adam Silver is worried.  This game can not just be about winning and…efficiency.  

Everyone goes on and on about how Giannis worked hard and made it through adversity.  Rightly so, it is an amazing true story and he is an awesome human being.  But I didn’t sign up for a subscription to Reader’s Digest.  I want my NBA back.  The one with the show above all, the one where players focus on giving the crowd something unique to watch.  Other than a few blocks, the Greak Freak is no freak at all.  He is boring as hell.   Ten years from now they will struggle to find anything to put in a show reel from his highlights.

Is it important?   It is to me and it is to many of the NBA’s target demographics.  We want stars that are stars, not “amazing hard working people”.  I could go to a factory floor and watch that if I wanted to.  Antetokounmpo is an anti star.  He doesn’t hang out with other NBA players, he doesn’t train with them, he doesn’t know how to make an inspiring speech or even a fun meme.   Already in the United States, rich white parents take their kids to soccer, not basketball. Giannis may be black, but he plays like a boring white person who wins through being gifted and working hard. Admirable. Not NBA though. It will make the rift even bigger.

In a strange way it is similar to the election of Obama.  Despite the rhetoric, a simmering racism ensured that in the next elections Donald Trump won.  There were many more racists annoyed at Obama’s presidency than could publicly vent during his tenure.  Something similar is happening now with NBA fans.  Giannis doesn’t feature in rap songs because well, he is boring, he is an anti star, he does nothing like all the true NBA stars that built the league.  True NBA fans are sad today.  We are simmering with rage.  We are not racist of course.  But we hate “efficient”, boring players like Antetokounmpo.   When Kevin Durant slogs it out alone in Game7 it is epic. He generates stories, this is what the NBA is about. Giannis has one story, always the same story as his game does nothing to add to it, it is awesome, the boy that sold trinkets at traffic lights who went to the NBA. Fantastic. Let’s make it a movie. For DISNEY, not for the NBA.

I am Greek.  Everyone here is ecstatic.  I am sad they missed the whole point of what makes the NBA special.  Giannis Antetokounmpo should move to a European team as soon as possible and leave our league as we like it.

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