All-action superheroes are usually confined to the imaginary world of comic books, fantasy movies and video games. And Shaq McKissic, the recently-signed Olympiacos Piraeus guard, knows all about that, having enjoyed controlling the high-flying digital antics of his favorite teams and players on a console during his youth.
As he admitted in the aftermath of his new team’s breathless derby victory over Panathinaikos OPAP Athens on Tuesday night: "It’s kind of crazy, it’s a lot to take in right now. I used to play with these guys on NBA2K, Georgios [Printezis], Kostas [Papanikolaou] and [Vassilis] Spanoulis, so to be on their team eight or nine years later and be playing in this atmosphere is really unbelievable."
It might have been hard to believe, but on Tuesday night McKissic truly was at Peace and Friendship Stadium on the hardwood to compete in the real thing of an adrenalin-packed Greek derby at a crucial stage of the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague season, rather than sitting at home in a t-shirt and jeans playing a video game. But you couldn’t tell much difference, because he took the occasion of his first EuroLeague home game to perform like a supernatural all-action fictional hero come to life.
McKissic, who was making his home debut after scoring 14 points in last week’s thrilling loss at Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, was simply sensational in the derby. Was he good? No, that’s nowhere near strong enough. Great? Nearly, getting closer. Amazing? Keep trying. Beyond belief? Yes, that’s about right.
It wasn’t just that McKissic led the game by scoring 22 points, but the manner in which he did so. Right from the second minute of the game, when he grabbed a defensive rebound and went all the way to explode a statement-making dunk, he repeatedly got the home fans off their feet with an incredible series of highlight-reel plays.
Perhaps the best of those came midway through the third quarter, when he made a swift steal to grab the ball away from Nick Calathes, nearly lost his balance but immediately sprang to his feet and outraced the Panathinaikos defense to throw down another shocking slam. There were also a couple of three-pointers, a driving layup to beat the halftime buzzer, another dunk in the third quarter, and another in the fourth. Oh yeah…and a powerful penetration through a foul to score the very last field goal of the game, giving his team a 79-76 lead with 39 seconds remaining.
How good was McKissic on Tuesday night? Fantasy level. And you don’t have to take our word for it. You can also pay heed to the assessment of Tuesday night’s beaten coach Rick Pitino, who gushed: "The pickup of McKissic was one of the best I've seen in the EuroLeague. He played unbelievable at Maccabi and he played unbelievable tonight."
Unbelievable... yes, that’s the word. The kind of performance, in fact, you only normally see in video games. But after this home debut showing, McKissic will no longer be playing NBA2K as Spanoulis, Papanikolaou and Printezis…they’ll be playing as him.