Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey is quickly becoming a household name in his home country of Australia, but the NBA star has revealed that he was nearly lost to the sport because he was better at Aussie Rules as a youngster.
Since being named No. 6 by OKC in the 2021 NBA draft, the former Australian NBL’s Adelaide 36ers star has improved by the second.
With his deadly passing ability, great vision and ability to pull a heavy jump shot, he became a valuable asset to Thunder rebuilding.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey (pictured playing against the Denver Nuggets this month) nearly lost to basketball as a youngster
Giddey was a junior with the Melbourne Tigers before starting his professional career with the Adelaide 36ers in the NBL
He enjoys longer minutes and has averaged 13.5 points and 5.3 assists this season and looks set to be selected for the Australian Boomers in the coming World Cup and Olympic campaigns.
But before announcing himself among the 36ers in the NBL, Giddey was also a pistol footballer with the Yarraville Seddon Eagles in outback Melbourne, where he played 121 games and won three junior premierships with 124 goals to his name.
Giddey won three premierships with the Yarraville Seddon Eagles footy club. The big Hawthorn fan met ex-Hawks star Tom Mitchell
The Yarraville Seddon Eagles, including Giddey as a junior footy player, celebrate another premiership
That put the rising star on the radar of many AFL clubs and he was forced to make a tough choice.
“That was one of the hardest decisions because when I was probably 15 I loved football,” Giddey said.
“I played it all during my junior days when I was in elementary, high school.
‘When I was 15-16, I got an offer to go to the AIS [Australian Institute of Sport] for basketball, and I was on the cusp. I didn’t know what to do because at the time I was probably better at football than at basketball.
‘Of course I took the scholarship offer, but that was the point where I had to stop playing football.
‘I miss it; I miss it very much. It’s great when I go back home to go to AFL games and watch it again.”
While Giddey’s star is on the rise, troubled Australian point guard Ben Simmons’ career continues to swing to worrying new lows.
The former No. 1 draft pick and All-Star has returned for the Brooklyn Nets after a two-year layoff due to mental, physical and contractual issues, but has barely set the world ablaze for the warring Nets.
Ben Simmons has had a rough time returning to the field for the Nets, but Giddey has no doubts that his fellow Aussie
However, Giddey has supported Simmons as a key player in the World Cup and Olympics campaigns, even though the two are likely to compete for the same spot in the starting five.
“Obviously he was dealing with some things with Philly and then…” [made] a fresh start in Brooklyn,” Giddey said.
“People forget that Ben is an All-Star. He was, I mean, he’s one of the best players in the league. Obviously he needs time to find his way, he hasn’t played in the NBA in a long time.
“I’m excited for what he can do and hopefully soon we can both be apart of the Boomers and help Australia win a gold medal.”
New Orleans Pelicans guard Dyson Daniels (left, clashing with LeBron James) is another Aussie NBA talent who will be pushing hard for a spot with the Boomers
The fact that Simmons isn’t sure he’ll even make the final Boomers roster for the World Cup and the Olympics shows just how deep Australia’s talent pool now runs.
With NBA guys like Dyson Daniels and Josh Green also making their demands, along with seasoned veterans like Patty Mills and Joe Ingles, the competition is getting hot.
That bodes well for Australia, Giddey thinks, with the young guard genuinely believing his country can finally challenge the United States’ might for gold medal glory.
“Next year there will be a World Cup and anything but a gold medal we will not be happy with,” said Giddey.
Josh Green #8 of the Dallas Mavericks drives to the basket against the Toronto Raptors on November 4, 2022 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas
“There will be elite guys who will be left out of the team.
‘It [the depth] probably at an all-time high.
“I think the country has finally reached a point where we can confidently enter these tournaments with a gold medal in mind. In previous years it may have been the hope, but how realistic it was I don’t know. It was certainly at the last Olympics and the last World Cup.
“But as time has gone on, the chances of gold have become more and more realistic. I think this is the time when Australian basketball has been as good as ever. The talent level we have is elite.
‘I’m really looking forward to the World Cup and even more so the Olympics. I think it’s every player’s dream to win a gold medal there. I can’t wait for those tournaments.’