№29: Khris Middleton Player Spotlight | The Milwaukee Bucks Road Back to the NBA Finals | This Week’s Comic Book Haul | Funko! Mystery Minis: The Suicide Squad (2021) | Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)

June 27, 2021

Welcome to the tedi.substack.com weekly newsletter! At the beginning of each week1, this newsletter will touch on any number of entertaining, informative, or (possibly) useful topics.

It has been awhile since I’ve done a Player Spotlight segment and with the Milwaukee Bucks capturing their first title in 50 years, this was the best time to crunch out another one. The focus of this week’s Player Spotlight is on the Bucks sweet shooting forward Khris Middleton.

Other segments for this newsletter include the Bucks’ journey to their first title since 1971, my latest Comic Book Haul, some insight the newest Funko! Mystery Minis: The Suicide Squad (2021), and my short review of Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)

For more, kindly jump to your section of interest.

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The concept behind my Player Spotlight segment was inspired by the writings of the late Zander Hollander (Sportswriter, archivist, and author of the ever informative The Complete Handbook of Pro Basketball) wherein he would write short and insightful entries on—then 20 something—NBA teams and their players for that particular season. With over 30 years of basketball knowledge under my belt, I decided to come up with my own short, free flowing, and non-linear/viewpoint narrative on a featured player. 

Khris Middleton

Born James Khristian Middleton (August 12, 1991). Coming of an injury-riddled junior campaign in Texas A&M, Khris Middleton decided to forgo his senior season with the Aggies and applied for the 2012 NBA Draft. In a draft class that featured future NBA all-stars Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, Andre Drummond, and Draymond Green; Middleton was selected by the Detroit Pistons with the 39th overall pick.

Khris played sparingly during his rookie season for the Pistons (27 games) and was even sent down to their NBA Development League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, for a week. Prior to his sophomore season (2013-2014), Middleton was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks along with Brandon Knight and Viacheslav Kravtsov for dynamic guard Brandon Jennings. 

Prior to the 2015-2016 NBA season, Khris Middleton signed a five-year $70 million dollar deal (with a player option on the 5th year) and proceeded to lead the Bucks in points (18.2 per game), steals (1.7 per game), free-throw percentage (88.8%) three-point percentage (39.6%), and minutes per game (36.1 minutes per game). The following year, he missed the first 50 games of the 2016-2017 season due to a left hamstring injury that he sustained during a preseason workout.

Two years later, Khris was selected as a 2019 Eastern Conference All-Star reserve (the first All-Star selection of his career) and subsequently became the first G League alumni (formerly the NBA Development League) to hold that distinction. In 2019-2020, Middleton re-signed with the Bucks on a five-year $178 million dollar deal and by mid-season, he was again named as an All-Star reserve to the 2020 NBA All-Star game.

In February 2021, Khris Middleton was named as a finalist for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Men's Basketball Team and officially part of the 12-man roster four months later. He was part of the Milwaukee Bucks team that beat the Phoenix Suns (4-2) in the 2021 NBA Finals held in July 2021. The NBA championship was the second in franchise history.

On April 8th, 2021, it was announced that Middleton would become part of the ownership group of the Brisbane Bullets, a professional Australian basketball team.

Personal Notes:

Whenever I think about Khris Middleton, a two-year old article by the Milwaukee Jounal Sentinel’s Matt Velazquez comes to mind. According to Velazquez, Middleton—who had just been named to his first All-Star game—received a phone call from his father, James Middleton.

James shared, “That’s why we didn’t cut those tree limbs down.”

Although said in jest, James was pertaining to the tree limbs that hung over their backyard basketball court in Charleston, South Carolina. When Khris was a young boy, he would continually make his case to James to cut down the tree limbs in order for him to shoot freely.

But James would have none of it and would tell Khris, “No, we’re going to shoot through ‘em."

I’m sure that James Middleton had his reasons for not acquiescing to his son’s request. Maybe it was meant to be an on-going (and grueling) character-building moment that would touch on Khris’ adaptability, attention to detail, diligence, flexibility, goal setting, patience, persistence, resilience, etc.

At the end of the day, only James and Khris would know the true intention behind this story. But no one can argue with the results: It produced a champion.

The Milwaukee Bucks Road Back to the NBA Finals

After a disappointing second round exit to the Miami Heat during the 2019-2020 NBA Playoffs, Khris Middleton and the Milwaukee Bucks faced the Heat again in the first round of the 2020-2021 postseason. Propelled by a Middleton game winning jumper at the end of Game 1, the Bucks would eventually get back at the Heat via a four game sweep.

In their second round matchup against the Brooklyn Nets, the Bucks found themselves down 3-2 in the series and leaned on Middleton’s career playoff high 38 points to help Milwaukee tie the series at 3 games apiece. In the deciding seventh game, the Bucks outlasted the Nets 115-111 in overtime—the first winner-take-all game to go into overtime in the last 15 years.

With their victory over the Brooklyn Nets, the Milwaukee Bucks advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals (their second trip in three seasons) and faced the up-and-coming Atlanta Hawks led by guard Trae Young. Up 2-1 in the series, two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo hyperextended his left knee and missed the rest of the series. In his absence, the Bucks relied on the collective efforts of center Brook Lopez (33 points), small forward Khris Middleton (26 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists), point guard Jrue Holiday (25 points, 6 rebounds, 13 assists), and power forward Bobby Portis (22 points) to win the pivotal Game 5—123-112. In Game 6, the Bucks—led by the Middleton’s 32 points and Holiday’s 27 points—took the series 118-107 which sent the Bucks back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1973-1974.

Their first title in 50 years

Despite the return All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo from injury, the Phoenix Suns wrestled control of the NBA Finals after winning their first two games in The Phoenix Suns Arena (Two days before Game 5 of the 2020-2021 NBA Finals, the venue was renamed Footprint Center—after the material science company.).

But with the series moving back to Milwaukee for Games 3 and 4, the Bucks rallied to tie the series at two games apiece behind the stellar play of Antetokounmpo (41 points) in Game 3 and Middleton (40 points) in Game 4. In Game 5, the game (and ultimately, the series) came down to the last 16 seconds of regulation.

With Suns down 120-119, Jrue Holiday stole the ball from Devin Booker and quickly pushed the ball down the floor. Holiday saw a streaking Giannis Antetokounmpo heading for the basket and proceeded to lob the ball to him which resulted in a dunk that all but deflated any hopes of the Phoenix Suns. Final score: 123-119.

In Game 6 back in Milwaukee, the Phoenix Suns battled back from an early deficit but could never seem to find an answer for eventual NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (42 minutes, 50 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 blocks, on 17-19 free-throw shooting). Tied 77-77 all entering the 4th quarter, the Bucks eventually pulled away 105-98 enroute to their first NBA Championship since 1971.

This Week’s Comic Book Haul (July 19th - July 25th, 2021)

Here is a breakdown of this week’s titles:

1) Black Hammer Reborn #2 (Marley Zarcone Regular Cover | Cover A) - The story shifts to Lucy’s contumacious teenage daughter, Rose! Love this Skulldigger cover by Marley Zarcone.

2) Jupiter’s Legacy Requiem #2 (Ryan Sook Black & White Variant | Cover C) - Despite Netflix and Millarworld opting not to continue with the Netflix series, I am sort of committed to completing this run.

3) The Nice House On The Lake #2 (Alvaro Martinez Bueno Variant | Cover A and Anand Radhakrishnan Variant | Cover B | 1st Printing) - With TNHOTL #2 selling out at the distributor level, I just had to get a second set.

4) The Walking Dead Deluxe #19 (Tony Moore & Dave McCaig Variant | Cover B) - AKA Michonne first re-appearance!

Review: Funko! Mystery Minis: The Suicide Squad (2021) - King Shark (1:6) and The Polka-Dot Man (1:12)(July 24, 2021)

After speaking about King Shark (Nanaue) last week and The Polka-Dot Man (Abner Krill) two weeks before, I felt that I had covered all of the bases in terms of the toy product and backstory.

But on the subject of Funko! Mystery Minis, now that is a whole can of worms in itself. For those of you who are familiar with the product, each case consists of 12 blind boxes that contains themed figures with the following odds: two-in-a-box (1:6), one-in-a-box (1:12), one-in-every-two-boxes (1:24), one-in-every-three-boxes (1:36), or the highly coveted one-in-every-six-boxes (1:72).

Fortunately, I found a local seller that did away with the odds and opened several boxes. I essentially had my pick of the litter and since I had already invested in the larger versions of King Shark (1:6) and The Polka-Dot Man (1:12)—it was a no-brainer to scoop up their diminutive counterparts (and at a reasonable cost to boot!).

Doesn’t that limb dangling from his mouth simply set the tone: Although only seeded 1:6 boxes, I find the King Shark (left)—voiced by the legendary Sylvester Stallone [I just found out!]—to be the jewel of this particular Funko! Mystery Minis set.

Here are the odds of a case of Funko! Mystery Minis: The Suicide Squad (2021):

Bloodsport (1:6)

Harley Quinn in Suit (1:6)

King Shark (1:6)

Peacemaker (1:6)

Mongal (1:12)

The Polka-Dot Man (1:12)

Blackguard (1:24)

Ratcatcher II with Rats (1:24)

Javelin (1:36)

The Thinker (1:36)

Harley Quinn in Red Dress (1:72)

Weasel (1:72)

Movie of the Week: Space Jam: A New Legacy [2021] (July 19, 2021)

When the original Space Jam (1996) came out, I was about 20 years old and basketball was a big part of my life (Come to think about it, it still is). The Chicago Bulls had just won the first championship of what would ultimately culminate in their second three-peat of the 90’s and Michael Jordan, well, was Michael Jordan.

Space Jam (1996), much like Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1998) before it, was a movie that came at the right time. It partnered the best basketball player in the world with arguable the best toons in the business. A recipe built for success.

You know how the movie went, Jordan is plucked away from his fake family and sucked into Looney Tunes’ world wherein he has to help the Tune Squad—a team made up of popular Looney Tunes—beat the NBA-enhanced Monstars in a game of basketball.

Twenty-five years later, Warner Bros. attempted to catch lightning in a bottle yet again with essentially an updated and slightly tweaked version of the original Space Jam. I mean, it was ok. I thought LeBron James did what he could with the material that was in front of him. I have to admit it was great to see Bugs and company again. Plus, I couldn’t stop smiling with the extended cameos of all the Warner Bros. Properties like 60’s Batman and Robin, The Herculoids (1967), the cast of Scooby Doo, Where Are You! (1970), Mr. Freeze from Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin (1997), King Kong (1933), The Iron Giant (1999), Rick and Morty (2013) [a personal favorite], and so on.

Younger audiences who haven’t had the opportunity to watch the first Space Jam (1996) will likely enjoy Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021). I recommend giving it a once over. Bugs and company deserve that much. ■


Tedi Gustilo Villasor, Ph.D. is a former columnist for Baby Magazine (Philippines) as well as a past contributor to NBA.com/Philippines. His other works include the indie comic books Lindol and OBIsessions.

Click here for more information on his work as a psychologist.

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