The Imaginative Feats of the NBA's Unicorns – The New Yorker

On Monday night, during what turned out to be a loss against the Boston Celtics, the Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton jumped, unsuspected, into a passing lane and, after securing the ball, threw it ahead to his superstar teammate, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo loped downcourt, all alone, for a fast-break dunk. He took a few giant steps and floated upward kind of casually, and, just before he flushed the two points home, his eyes were almost level with the rim. The moment was amazing, all the more so because it is, by now, commonplace: this play, or a display more or less like it, happens just about every time Giannis puts on his jersey. All game, he did things that—given his almost seven-foot frame and long, stretchy limbs—he shouldn’t, by rights, be able to do, but which have become staples of the diet he offers to fans: deceptive hesitations before journeys into the paint; flicked fifteen-foot turn-around jumpers; easy sprints to regain a position on defense that seemed hopelessly lost.

Sheer repetition makes even the outrageous seem everyday. But, once in a while, something presents itself as, even now, barely precedented. Later in the game, Antetokounmpo ventured into the lane, dribbled smoothly through his legs while surrounded by a host of defenders (a move he might’ve borrowed from Kyrie Irving, his opponent that night, who is almost a foot shorter), and delivered a shovel pass to the corner, where the Bucks forward Tony Snell stood waiting. The sequence, which ended, unfortunately, with a miss from Snell, reminded me that our current basketball dispensation—that of Antetokounmpo and his fellow so-called unicorns, limber, multifaceted big men such as Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, and Ben Simmons—depends as much on imagination as on generational advances in athleticism or skill. The

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