How far could Giannis Antetokounmpo triple jump?
Let’s quickly revisit something I wrote almost a year ago:
Look at this clip of Giannis Antetokounmpo driving to the basket. It took him four steps to go from half court to the baseline.
Here’s his final step before taking off:
He starts before the high school three-point line, and his foot comes down inside the free throw stripe. We can only hope that during the offseason he learns a new move, wherein the ball is inbounded to him and he just leaps from one end of the court to the other, dropping the ball into the basket like a toy machine claw.
Four steps, 46 feet.
That was from an article where I broke down the NBA stats related to player movement and deduced that Giannis has likely taken the least amount of steps in the NBA based on stride length alone. From the aforementioned clip, you can see that he possesses incredible body control, timing his strides for a perfect take off.
At the time, I just thought of this as a freakish feat of athleticism; I didn’t think about it in track and field terms.
Fast forward a year later and the Greek Freak, among various other highlights he’s had this year, went and did this:
Gus Johnson speaks for all of us pic.twitter.com/VGJ6675aWz
— Behind the Buck Pass (@BehindTheBucks) February 7, 2018
A similar fast break, a similar loping stride down the court, and a similar finish. This lead one of our dear readers to submit this tweet:
— Matt Chittim (@MattChittim) February 7, 2018
Let’s think about that.
I know little to nothing about the triple jump, but I found an interview with a man that does: Multiple-time Olympic and World medalist, Will Claye.
When asked what makes a good triple jumper, Claye said “someone with long levers. Long femurs, that’s really a good sign of a triple jumper. And definitely someone with some speed. I feel like there’s a lot of people that can triple jump, but they just don’t know it.”
Enter Giannis. Long levers? He is 7-feet tall, and from what I’ve seen, his femurs account for roughly 65% of his height. Someone with speed? He covers the floor quickly but generally doesn’t get a chance to show off his top speed–it only takes him a few steps to beat anyone in the open court. But he’s an elite athlete who can beat plenty of people from a standstill, so we’ll assume his speed is at least adequate.
Now, since we don’t have any recently unearthed footage of an adolescent Giannis competing in the triple jump, we have to go off basketball highlights. So, what sort of triple jump fundamentals can we glean from these fast break clips?
In his interview, Claye emphasizes a couple things: good bounding skills, and the ability to maintain speed while creating space. Meaning a good triple jumper can take those enormous, 20-foot steps, while also staying close to their top speed.
Giannis’s enormous fastbreak steps are what take people to Twitter. I said it in my last article, and the tweet above said it too: Giannis can cover 46 feet in four steps, and he’s not even close to full speed.
The fastbreak, though, doesn’t do Giannis justice. His build and athletic ability are constrained to a congested 96’x50′ rectangle–because of this, he has to take small (relative to how long they could be), choppy steps in order to maintain control of his body. All of this to say that if anyone has footage of Giannis running an all-out 200m, we’d have a real idea of what this man is capable of in terms of speed and stride length.
The final, and most interesting part of Claye’s interview about the triple jump is his insight into what sports fans like to call “the intangibles.” The intangibles are the invaluable, and more-often indefinable qualities of a star athlete; something you can’t practice. Claye says for the triple jump, this quality is “finesse.” If you’ve seen Giannis play for five minutes you’ll know that his game is defined by finesse.
So, to sum up: the build? Check. The fundamentals? Check. The intangibles? Check. Conclusion: Giannis: world-class triple jumper.
All of this means nothing, of course, unless we actually see the man triple jump. Because our last attempt at convincing a star basketball player to play track and field with us didn’t work–even with the help of Malcolm Gladwell–we’ve decided to do the only reasonable thing and start a petition.