Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is in the middle of another absolutely dominant season, but he took a moment to shout out two San Antonio Spurs legends during a recent press conference. After a reporter asked Antetokounmpo about being the face of the NBA as an international player, he specifically mentioned Hall of Famers Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in his response.
In addition to being one of the best players in the NBA, Antetokounmpo clearly knows how he fits into league history. It wasn't that long ago when there was skepticism about foreign-born players. Parker, Ginobili, and Antetokounmpo each faced that adversity, and all three shattered expectations.
Parker was a late first-round pick when he joined the Spurs as a teenager and quickly became a starter on a championship-caliber team. However, it took him several seasons to develop into a star. It took even longer before he started getting the recognition he deserved. Ginobili, too, faced a lengthy path toward stardom.
Despite having a decorated overseas career, Ginobili was taken 57th overall in 1999. He proved the teams that passed on him wrong by becoming a key member of four championship teams and a Hall of Famer. Their success helped pave the way for the current generation of international players to thrive in the NBA, and based on his comments, Antetokounmpo appreciates their significance. Better yet, he understands that he can do the same for the next generation, which includes the likely first-overall pick in this year's draft and potential future Spur Victor Wembanyama.
Given Parker's importance to a thriving basketball scene in France, it's possible Wembanyama gravitated toward the sport because of the standout career Parker forged in San Antonio. The same is true for Ginobili and Antetokounmpo in their respective countries. As Antetokounmpo continues evolving, it's pretty awesome to see him give two Spurs legends an unprompted shoutout.