Giannis Antetokounmpo leans against a table at the Bucks practice facility in downtown Milwaukee and watches a boy dribble. The boy's legs turn into scissors as he slices a basketball between them. A white band that says "God is here" dangles from the boy's wrist, seeming to further lengthen his 7'2" wingspan. He is 6'7" and crafty. Energetic. Probably because he knows Giannis is watching.
He yearns to impress Giannis, and Giannis in turn sees in him a younger version of himself. A slimmer version of himself.
The boy starts toward the hoop from the three-point line and softly lays the ball in. Too softly. Giannis' eyes narrow. His shoulders stiffen. There's a sense of urgency. Always is when he watches 17-year-old Alex Antetokounmpo, his youngest brother, the one he nurtures, protects and mentors, almost like a father would. "I get more nervous going to watch Alex play in a high school game than playing in the Eastern Conference Finals," Giannis says, his head tilting, tracking the flight of Alex's next jumper on this June afternoon.
When the two are together, the court turns into a cocoon. A place just for them. A place where they do not have to think about grief or pressure or money or failure. Giannis is trying to teach Alex discipline and focus—to not get distracted by anyone or anything outside of the cocoon.
"It's just me," Giannis says, pointing to his chest, "and you." He points to Alex's chest. "Nobody else. Just me and you."
He often tells Alex what it feels like to play in front of 20,000 people screaming insults, trying to get in his head: He knows his brother, a soon-to-be senior in high school and projected first-rounder in the 2021 NBA draft, might soon face the same.
"Lock that shit out!" Giannis says. "It's just me and you."
When Giannis speaks to Alex, most often in Greek, he is blunt but empathetic. Intense but warm.