Giannis Antetokounmpo: Rivalry with James Harden will only heat up

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 16: (Photo by Lampson Yip - Clicks Images/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 16: (Photo by Lampson Yip - Clicks Images/Getty Images) /

Among the many subplots to the Milwaukee Bucks‘ upcoming Eastern Conference Semifinals series with the Brooklyn Nets is the fact three Most Valuable Players will be matched up against one another.

Between Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and James Harden, the sheer level of talent that will always been on the floor ramps up the anticipation for this star-studded matchup. And that’s without adding in the likes of Kyrie Irving, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, just to name a few.

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Of course, two of those MVP winners are quite familiar with one another.

The not-so-friendly rivalry between Antetokounmpo and Harden has since cooled have plenty of words and run ins traded back and forth with one another. Yet since this upcoming series may heat up what has been simmered below the surface between the two great players.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden have clashed on and off the court

Before Harden’s monumental move to Brooklyn earlier this season, the two MVP winners have clashed on and off the court as well as in award races. On that last point, Harden finished as the runner up in the Antetokounmpo’s first MVP-winning season back in 2018-19.

The back and forths between the two seemingly was all set off by that MVP race that handily went to Antetokounmpo as ESPN’s Tim MacMahon recounted in this piece from last year that focused on the genesis of their feud. The hatchet has seemingly been buried and the respect between the two has gradually bubbled back up.

Of course, the Bucks were initially among the teams that reportedly linked to Harden as his trade request to the Houston Rockets started to spill out into the open and set the stage for his arrival to Brooklyn. The Bucks even went as so far as asking Antetokounmpo if he were interested in playing alongside Harden.

Obviously the Bucks weren’t going to ever outbid the Nets and the massive haul of draft picks they parted with to acquire Harden. In many ways, the Bucks set that price after having done the same to bring in Holiday last offseason.

The Bucks will have more than Harden to worry about, though. The challenges that come with trying to defend and even slow down the Nets’ three-headed monster of Durant, Harden and Irving will take up much of the Bucks’ attention as they look to set the stage for a potential upset.

Next. 3 key tactics for Bucks to slow down Brooklyn Nets. dark

The showdown between the Bucks and the Nets will soon start and time will only tell whether the rivalry that has stewed between Antetokounmpo and Harden will take focus once again.