Finding something new, insightful, or informative to say about one of the best basketball players in the world pulling off one of the best Finals performances of all time is no easy task for a sportswriter. But if you work for the Athletic, which describes its perma-discounted product as “exclusive sports news coverage from the most informed writers,” you should at least try.
To be fair, what the Athletic’s NBA columnist Marcus Thompson II wrote about Giannis Antetokounmpo’s first title was definitely exclusive. It’s hard to think of another place where you could get a poem in which poverty and racism are represented as defending basketball players. Getting creative and trying something new isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but this specific poem, titled “An Ode to Giannis Antetokounmpo,” is hilarious.
From the opening lines, in which Giannis’s biceps are described as “stuffed with hope,” the poem is stretching the definitions of symbolism and metaphor, but one truly confounding part comes midway through:
Connected to two countries yet stateless most of his life.
Until he became a citizen of the game.
His name had to be Hellenized before he could raise hell in the NBA.
Giannis had to Eurostep poverty first.
Soar for alley-oops over racism.
Just so the skinny kid with the big head could venture to America and change the stars of his family.
Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks may have gotten the better of the team of societal ills this time around—racism’s on-ball defense was really bad, and poverty’s shot selection helped nobody—but they shouldn’t be written off so easily going forward. Things might play out differently next season if disease builds on its strong 2020-21 showing.
It’s easy to criticize art without having trying to create it yourself, though, so here is my best shot at memorializing this hypothetical team’s season:
With poverty’s defense exposed once and for all,
Time to sub in disease; pass it the ball!
Racism benched; world hunger’s a fraud,
For crime alone fans now meekly applaud.
Global disease was the draft’s No. 1 pick,
But it was isolated when it got too sick.
Then there’s climate change, stifling opponents’ fast breaks,
And the hope that war soon recovers from its aches.