By now, everyone knows how Shai Gilegeous-Alexander operates. Dribbling in bunches, in and around, between the legs, behind the back. It’s pretty much the type of dribbling that gets your girlfriend annoyed. Nevertheless, all that dribbling is geared towards probing defenses and more often than not ends up in a fadeaway jump shot from the midrange or a trip to the free throw line.

It’s a dance that may not be for everyone, more so for those who love the free-flowing, run-and-gun, and high-scoring affairs that have helped basketball inch closer to football in terms of global popularity. But, you have to respect its effectiveness on the court.

In Canada’s 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup quarterfinal matchup against Slovenia, SGA’s work led to eight quick points before he was subbed out with 1:56 left in the first quarter. When he returned, he brought his point total to 13, while his counterpart Luka Dončić had 17 points through two quarters.

The first half had everything you would want in a classic; the lead switching hands, shoving and fighting, and scoring from pretty much everywhere within half-court. Both teams traded shots with one another, with Gilgeous-Alexander, Dončić, and their respective supporting casts not giving an inch.

What once had the makings of a classic, though, eventually turned into a beatdown.

SGA turned things up in the second half, getting whatever he wanted in the paint and further pissing off the Slovenians with his penchant for drawing fouls. In fact, Gilgeous-Alexander’s 16 free throw attempts were nearly as many as what Slovenia attempted (19).

His Canadian teammates followed suit, as they crashed the boards, put up the pressure on Dončić, and made back-breaking baskets to the dismay of the Slovenians. It was a game of emotions, and with Dončić and Dillon Brooks having been ejected, cooler heads prevailed and made the bigger difference in the game. When the dust settled, Canada earned a 100-89 victory over Slovenia that felt much larger than the score would say. It was also a breakthrough win for the second-largest country by total area, as this was their first appearance in the FIBA World Cup semifinals.

SGA led all scorers with 31 points, but his 10 rebounds may have been as impactful, if not even more, considering it’s something he isn’t really asked to do with the Canadian national team. The Slovenians aren’t giants compared to the likes of Lithuania or South Sudan, but they have no qualms with putting their bodies on the line for 50-50 balls. Gilgeous-Alexander joining the fray obviously caused a lot of panic within Canada and even SGA’s NBA team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Thankfully, Gilgeous-Alexander advanced to the semifinals unscathed, but more importantly, the message was sent: SGA means business and he’s going all out with the Naismith Trophy within reach.

There are telltale signs to determine great players and for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, it’s sticking to what works and being great at it. It’s been said that a man who’s great at one thing is more dangerous than one who knows a handful of moves and with SGA being a master at his craft, he and Canada are setting themselves up as the team to beat.