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Giannis Antetokounmpo is an NBA champion, but he doesn’t want to hear about it. “Don’t call me champ. If you hear only compliments, you relax and this is something I don’t want”, he said to his interview in the Greek television channel COSMOTE TV just before returning to the US where he will defend his title with the Bucks.
Giannis talked about his meeting with Greek Hall of Famer Nick Galis (photo), the sentiment of winning the NBA title, and how he handles everything that comes from winning the title, including his reluctance to train with other NBA superstars who will be his opponents during the season: “I can’t be fake. I am Giannis. But calling me MVP, calling me champ, calling me the best player in the world, is something that might hold me back. And I don’t want anything holding me back. I want to look forward and be better. That’s why I don’t train with other players. I don’t want to be buddy with them. If we do this and then drink a coffee with them, can I go in the court and use my elbow against them? Can I block or dunk on them? I can’t cause I am authentic. If I love someone, I love him also on the court. I am fully aware of that and I don’t want to put myself in this position”.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was asked why he is not accepted by his peers on the level that other young stars are and he didn’t have a clear answer: “Ι don’t know why. Maybe because I am not a product of the same system. But neither is Luka Doncic, the magician. I really don’t know. Maybe because of my game, because it’s unorthodox, maybe they don’t like it”.
The Greek Freak was also asked about the now-infamous “no skill” comment by James Harden, explaining that from his point of view, he didn’t believe that Harden was aimed at him: “First of all, Harden never mentioned my name. I have seen this video, about one year and a half later. I think what he meant was that if he was also a 7footer, jumped and dunk, it would have been easier for him but now he had to learn to play the game. I think that the media made it about me. Harden is a hell of a player and when I am on the court against him I have to play real hard. He is a Hall of Famer, I have nothing against him. And that was no motivation for me against the Nets. My motivation is always how I can be better and help my team”.
After all, Giannis still feels that he is hunting the rest of the NBA: “I like being a hunter. I am not the best player in the world. I am telling you, I am not! KD, LeBron, Kawhi, Luka, Curry, AD might be. I am not. I am still hunting the All-Time Greats. LeBron is still the best player in the world”.
The MVP also spoke about the Finals and the fact that the Bucks did it as a unit despite him having a finals performance for the ages: “I shouldn’t be playing in the Finals. I was hurt in Game 1. I was praying. We lost. In Game 2, I scored 40 and we lost. I was shitting on my pants, I was scared after scoring 40 and losing. After that, we just wanted to defend our home. But then my teammates reacted, the team reacted, Jrue was all over the place. The key was how to manage my fear, my anxiety. I was talking with a sports psychiatrist every day, he helped me be myself. The free throws were a mental issue and I want to continue like this in the next season. And I want to see if we can repeat this as a team. I want to see if we can do it again, myself, my teammates, the owners, everyone”.
And actually, Giannis was playing and having historic numbers in the finals while being hurt: “If you work hard, you don’t drink, don’t smoke, do what you have to for 8-9 years, you can be ready for a misfortune. I shouldn’t have played in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. I was in a lot of pain. I’m still hurting. But I’ll be okay.”
Giannis would exchange the championship title with the chance to be again with his father: “I want my father back, no second thought on that one. You can take everything back, I could go back and sell CDs I don’t care. I want my father back. Next question”.
Giannis finished the interview by repeating once more his wish to win big with the Greek national team, starting hopefully from Eurobasket 2022.
“Hopefully I will be healthy to play in EuroBasket. I want us to go there, play together, enjoy. It’s a 15-day tournament. We don’t do that for fame, we do that to give joy to the people. Can you imagine giving joy to ten million Greeks? “.