Can Antetokounmpo follow Gasol, Parker and Nowitzki as next European NBA champion and superstar?


MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 30: Giannis Antetokounpo #34 odribbles the basketball up the court during the first quarter for the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the 2015 NBA Playoffs at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on April 30, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Giannis Antetokounpo

European basketball has produced some outstanding NBA talent over the years and Milwaukee Bucks look to have the next face on the European “Mt. Rushmore” in Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Greek forward can play multiple positions, has arms for days which makes him as formidable on the block as he is when he plays as a point guard. The “Greek Freak” (we don’t like that nickname) has transformed into one of the most exciting league talents and became only the third European import to sign a $100m deal, after Spain’s Marc Gasol and Frenchman Nicolas Batum.

In light of this, we look at some other top European talents that the 21-year old Antetokounmpo will be replacing as the face of European basketball stars playing in the NBA. Here are three of the NBA’s European legends on the downward slope of their careers:

Dirk Nowitzki Not only will the German retire as perhaps the greatest international player ever, but will go down as one of the best talents to grace the hardwood. The Dunking Deutschman sits sixth in the NBA’s all-time leading scorers table and is the highest scoring foreign born player. Nowitzki has 13 All-Star selections, a Finals MVP and championship to his name. Nowitzki never was as athletic as his peers, and in his more-advanced NBA age of 38, Dirk has had trouble keeping up. He’s admittedly only a year or two left before hanging it up.

Pau Gasol Though arguably surpassed in recent years by his “little” brother Marc, Pau remains a European great. His soft finishing touch, length and superb low-post game have made him a danger to deal with since his arrival in the NBA from Barcelona in 2011.The Spaniard is a two-time NBA champion, six-time All-Star and Spain stalwart. Gasol recently made the move to Texas to join the San Antonio Spurs, and going to a team vying for another Championship ring. It makes sense, Gasol is only a couple years behind Nowitzki in age (36) so he’d benefit from reduced playing time as he goes into his late-30s.


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And two years behind Pau Gasol, is Tony Parker. It may come to you as a surprise that Parker is only 34 years old as it seems he’s been in the league 20 years.

From Gregg Popovich’s chew toy in his early years, Parker grew into a legitimate NBA superstar at his position. Blessed with ludicrously quick and smooth on the ball in his prime, he got to the basket and converted runners and teardrops like no other in NBA history.

To this day he remains the only Euro guard to make it to the All-Star Game and found a home for life in San Antonio. He flourished with his trusty sidekick Tim Duncan (recently retired) beside him, and won four Championships together – coached by the legendary Popovich.

With this all the physical abilities that Antetokounmpo has in his toolkit, he is certainly one of the top choices to become the next European international NBA star. But Giannis isn’t the first player with the skillset and physical attributes to come into the league with “The Next ____” label. To live up to his potential, he’ll have to not only take his game another couple levels, but consistently dominate across an 82 game season, take his team deep into the playoffs and become a leader of a Bucks team that is crowned NBA champions.

If he can do that, as Nowitzki, Gasol and Parker have done in their long, accomplished careers, it’s easy to see why many think to Antetokounmpo is next in line to follow in the footsteps of these European giants and establish himself as a truly top talent and champion — European or not.

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