Milwauke Bucks of USA basketball star, Giannis Antetokounmpo has received accolades from two Nigerian-born former NBA stars, Hakeem ‘The Dream’ Olajuwon and ex-San Antonio Warriors center, Festus Ezeli.
While Ezeli says he saw an instant hit at first sight in Antetokounmpo, NBA hall of fame legend, Olajuwon said he is still expecting more maturity from the Greek international.
With the Bucks owning the best record in the NBA, Antetokounmpo appears to be the front-runner for the 2019 NBA MVP award.
He is competing against the likes of the Houston Rockets’ James Harden, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Paul George and the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.
Despite the challenge, Olajuwon is putting his bet on Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 27.1 points, 12.6 rebounds and six assists and led the Eastern Conference in All-Star votes.
Olajuwon, who dumped college to pick a highly successful pro-career with Houston Rockets at the peak of his USA career, added that, apart from Antetokounmpo’s skills, they are both from the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria.
Olajuwon noted: “I know from his last name that we are from the same tribe, the Yoruba tribe.
“His last name, which in Yoruba is spelled Adetokunbo, means the crown has returned from overseas.
“He has accomplished a great deal in such a short period of time. I’m sure Nigerians are very proud of him.
“Especially because of the way he has conducted himself and how he is dominating the league.”
Antetokounmpo, who visited South Africa as part of Basketball Without Borders in 2015, was not projected as a superstar when he was selected 15th overall in the first round of the 2013 NBA draft by the Bucks.
However, Ezeli said he believed Antetokounmpo would be special right after first seeing him at close quarters.
He recounted the awe he had seeing Antetokounmpo score a game-high 22 points for Team Africa in the first Africa Game in Johannesburg, on August 1, 2015 in the star’s first trip to Africa.
Ezeli said: “He took over for Team Africa in South Africa. We were talking about it on the bench, ‘This kid right here. …’ I was thinking.
“‘Yo, this kid is really special.’ Just the ease of how he did things and the way he was getting to the cup, the athleticism was there.
“And, in a friendly game in Africa, the competitiveness and edge were there.”