Giannis Antetokounmpo Propelling Milwaukee Bucks into Unfamiliar Spotlight

Milwaukee Bucks
Photo via Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports

For the better part of three decades the Milwaukee Bucks have been a disregarded franchise among some of the leagues heavyweights. Poor on court results, lack of star power and frigid winter conditions relegating Wisconsin’s professional basketball team to a mere afterthought.

To be fair, this has been a warranted position, as the Bucks have only been able to reach the second round in the NBA playoffs once since the 1980’s.

This narrative has suddenly become moot, as the Bucks are set to become frequently positioned on television sets across the country – and world for that matter. With the release of the 2018-19 schedule, the Bucks have drawn 18 nationally televised fixtures, that’s without including a further six to be televised on NBATV. Nine of those games will be on ESPN, eight on TNT, and one on ABC’s Sunday showcase.

Let’s be clear, the Bucks are still yet to achieve anything, after once again falling in the first round in 2017-18, this time in seven games to the Boston Celtics. But, they are a team unequivocally on the rise, must watch TV due to the presence of their franchise superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.

In what would have been a laughable thought five years ago, the Bucks will grace the Madison Square Garden court on Christmas Day, marking their first Christmas appearance since 1977. Antetokounmpo was still 17 years away from being born at that time, if you needed any further clarification on how long the draught has been.

The ‘Greek Freak’ averaged 26.9 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists last year, becoming a two-time All-Star in the process and dazzling on both ends of the floor on a nightly basis. From leaping over opponents to finishing ally-oop attempts, to swatting shots into the stands, Giannis is simply compelling viewing.

Sure, the Bucks have other talent on the roster, borderline All-Star players in Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe threatening to take their game to another level.

Sure, they acquired solid veterans in Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova this summer who are certain to provide stability to an often shaky rotation.

Most importantly, they added Mike Budenholzer in place of Jason Kidd, a veteran coach with a proven track record of success. The Bucks appear poised to propel themselves further into contention, but Giannis remains the drawcard.

For reference, when the 2017-18 schedule dropped, the Bucks were slated to appear on ESPN six times, and TNT four, with ABC far from the agenda for the Milwaukee squad. In 2016-17 the marquee appearances were even rarer, with just three games on ESPN and two on TNT. Giving the Bucks three more appearances this season than the previous two combined.

The year before in 2015, the Bucks broke a stunning streak as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, by appearing on TNT for the first time in a regular season contest since 2002. They squared off against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, marking the first time in 4,732 days that the Bucks appeared on the stations regular season slate.

In a sign of things to come, Antetokounmpo blew up on the big stage, going toe-to-toe with LeBron to pour in a career high 33 points on 12-for-15 shooting. The Bucks fell away late to go down 115-100, but Giannis had further announced himself on the scene. Highlight reel dunks and graceful euro-steps on full display for what was in all likelihood a large audience that had possibly never heard of his name to that point. As I sat in my New York hotel room watching that night, I felt being able to watch the Bucks anywhere, anytime, would quickly become the norm. It appears we are well and truly on that path right now.

The always excellent Zach Lowe had this to say about Giannis when dishing out his top ten watchable league pass teams prior to last season.

“There has never been anyone quite like him, covering the entire court in a few giant lunges, and reaching his extend-o arms out of bounds along the baseline to sling bullets across impossible diagonals.”

Within that sentence you get a feel for the current Milwaukee experience. While they have remained wildly inconsistent as a team, Giannis provides an experience like no other. With the East suddenly appearing wide open, The Bucks are poised to rise in the standings. How far they go is anyones guess, but with Antetokounmpo on the court, it will be worth your time watching either way.