In a recent interview with ESPN, rookie Paolo Banchero was asked about what was his final goal as a Magic player. He had no doubts in his mind as he said he hopes to emulate star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who stayed with the Bucks since he was first drafted until he finally brought the NBA title to Milwaukee.
“One hundred percent. Orlando as a city, I love it. It’s sunny,” he began his answer sharing his love for the city. “Being able to bring the franchise, like, a championship is a No. 1 goal for me and the team.”
Nevertheless, the 20-year-old is clear this is not a short-term objective, as he understands it’s a long process to the top. “Obviously, that takes years of failing and trying again – it’s not just going to happen overnight, it’s a five- or 10-year process, whatever it is,” he assured. “But I think we’re learning to put the work in. Maybe get there a little quicker.”
The young athlete, who is the clear frontrunner for this campaign’s Rookie of the Year award, shares how his competitive mentality has kept him at the top of his game throughout his life.
“You just have to stay consistent with your work… That’s what I’m trying to do.”
— NBA TV (@NBATV) March 4, 2023
“That’s been a priority for me my whole life. Every level I’ve played, I’ve wanted to be real competitive. I come off as a mild-mannered guy but in my head, I want to win more than anything,” he explained about his ambitious nature.
However, one thing is college basketball, and another is to bring his determined mindset to a team that’s been in the lower part of the Eastern Conference’s standing for quite some time now. “So coming here, that was the biggest thing,” he said. “Us being bottom of the league last year. And even before I got here, you didn’t think much of the Magic since Dwight Howard. I wanted to kill that narrative as soon as I could.”
Banchero is already recieving high praise from other NBA star players
Ever since the beginning of the campaign, Banchero has outshined all of his fellow first-year contenders, and proof of this is how Paolo has conquered consecutively the last three NBA Rookie of the Month awards since December, something only Shaquille O’Neal accomplished in Magic history.
Just last week, Orlando’s power foward scored 31 points against the Hornets, also adding 6 rebounds, 5 assists, one steal and a block that night. Check out Banchero’s highlights from that match vs. Charlotte:
This has caught the attention of stars from all over the NBA. “It’s scary, it’s still so early in his career and he’s already this good,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said about the young star. “He’s going to keep getting better and better. Off the court, he’s just a cool dude. I think he fits in with everybody perfectly.”
Another NBA great who’s shocked over how good the 20-year-old is, is Milwaukee foward Giannis Antetokounmpo, who’s seen him from up close three times already this season. On those three opportunities, Banchero dropped 20, 9 and 20 again against the Bucks.
“I didn’t know he was 6-10, 250 pounds. He’s big,” Giannis admitted. “I was 191 and they said 195 or 202, because I was too skinny. They had to lie, basically. That was another John Hammond pick (Magic’s GM).”