Milwaukee — Michael Redd averaged 26.7 points per game at the height of his Milwaukee Bucks career. Redd earned a $91 million contract as a Buck, won an Olympic gold medal while a member of the Bucks and stood as the Bucks' lone NBA All-Star for a span exceeding a decade.
You could thus make the case that Redd, based on his resume, knows better than anyone else in the basketball universe how it feels to be Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The problem: Redd couldn't suppress a laugh when that idea was presented to him.
As he stood on the floor of the Bucks' first home, in anticipation of watching the Antetokounmpo show at an arena unforgettably known as the Mecca, Redd made the claim that none of his predecessors — from this franchise or otherwise — could truly identify with the prodigy affectionately known as the Greek Freak.
"I've never seen anybody like him," Redd said. "We've never seen anything like this.
"The numbers he's getting right now are almost on accident. Once he learns how to play play — unstoppable. It's almost like he's from another planet."
Is he a budding Magic Johnson — albeit with more athletic ability? Is he the next LeBron James — only blessed with much more size and length? Can we call him a full-fledged point guard now? Is it more accurate to say he's more of a point forward?
What, exactly, is he?
"Point all," Bucks Coach Jason Kidd said, after a lengthy pause in search of the proper summation.
A Huge Milwaukee Fan
To the Bucks' delight, "all" includes a trait that tantalizes team officials as much as his 60 percent shooting from the field so far, or anything else the league's hottest individual force does with a basketball in his hands: Antetokounmpo unabashedly loves Milwaukee.
It's a city that, despite a string of successful teams in the 1980s and a squad that fell one win short of the NBA finals in 2001, has never fully shed its "unfashionable" label, which was affixed when the best player in Bucks history — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — forced a trade to the perennially glamorous Los Angeles Lakers in 1975.
But Antetokounmpo, in a recent interview, went so far as to assert that where he plays directly influences how he plays.
"I'm a low-profile guy," he said. "I don't like all these flashy cities like L.A. or Miami. I don't know if I could be the same player if I played in those cities."
An Unexpected Loss
Milwaukee hasn't simply been the backdrop for Antetokounmpo's fairy tale rise to American stardom; it has been home for virtually his whole family for all but the first few months of his NBA life.
Antetokounmpo admits, furthermore, that the unexpected death of his father just over a month ago has him leaning on his adopted hometown more than ever. Charles Antetokounmpo died of a heart attack on Sept. 29 at age 54.
"I can feel the love from the city every day I step on the floor," Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “For me, what I'm going through now, I appreciate it even more."
"Leading your family is a lot tougher than basketball," Antetokounmpo said. "Especially right now. But I've got to be strong for my family.
"Things," he continued, "are going to get better."
Places to Improve
The areas for on-court improvement are obvious for Antetokounmpo even as he stuffs box score after box score. His outside shot still needs copious amounts of work — he is not close to trusting it in times of need — and there is room for growth in reading the game at both ends, consistently making his teammates better and refining his decision-making.
Yet it's also ridiculous, and rather cold, to nitpick what is missing from Antetokounmpo's blossoming game given the level he is consistently hitting with that 7-foot-3 wingspan of his. Doubly so at a time of profound grief.
"He's like a plane that just started taking off," Kidd said. "He's at 10,000 feet."
erry, the Bucks guard, said: "Of course he has to keep working on his outside game. But Giannis just has a peaceful confidence about himself. You can see it. Last year, he didn't have that."
The legendary Kobe Bryant, now in his second season of retirement, had seen enough coming into training camp to challenge Antetokounmpo via Twitter in late August to make a bid for the league's Most Valuable Player Award.
Asked why he set such a high target, as part of his Mamba Mentality campaign, Bryant said last week via email that he was moved by Antetokounmpo's "rare physical gifts that are matched by a rare inner passion."
'The Giannis Effect'
At the Milwaukee Brat House near the team's current Bradley Center home, the manager Jennifer Fellin said she saw more patrons wearing Bucks gear now than at any other point in her eight-year stint at the restaurant. It is a fashion trend she attributes largely to the Giannis Effect.
The Antetokounmpo-led Bucks, Fellin asserted, have risen to "cool" status.
Team executives, mind you, are realistic. They know Antetokounmpo will be fiercely pursued by rival teams (and, perhaps more worryingly, stars from rival teams) at the earliest opportunity.
They know, even as construction proceeds swiftly on an impressive $524 million arena scheduled to open next fall and complement Milwaukee's gleaming new practice facility across the street, that Antetokounmpo might find it hard someday to resist looking around if the Bucks cannot fortify their roster and rediscover playoff success.
After all, even Bryant and Tim Duncan — two legends whom he hopes to emulate in terms of never switching teams, as Antetokounmpo recently told Time Magazine — flirted with leaving their teams before opting for the increasingly rare only-one-jersey approach.
"I really don't see Giannis going anywhere," Redd said. "Even in the future.
"With what he's doing on the court, it's going to automatically draw people to come play with him. I know people have that stigma about Milwaukee. But it won't be hard for him to attract talent here. I just want a ring when they get a ring."
In the month since his father's death, Antetokounmpo revealed that he often found himself looking at a picture on a private Instagram page he maintains. The image shows Giannis, Kostas, Alexandros and their older brother, Thanasis, who currently plays for Panathinaikos in Greece after a brief stint with the Knicks, all sleeping in the same bed.
Giannis estimates that he was 10 or 11 at the time. One bed for the four children was all Charles and Veronica Antetokounmpo could manage. The parents slept in a small nearby den, as Giannis recalled, behind "like a curtain."
"It's an unbelievable story," Antetokounmpo said. "Good stuff."
Memories like that leave little doubt why the only NBA city that the Greek Freak has ever known can feel like the promised land.
"There's a lot of things you can do in Milwaukee, too," he said proudly.
The whole league can see that now.