Giannis Antetokounmpo: FMVP doesn’t want to be “buddy” with opponents

Jul 20, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 20, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s still one of the most iconic moments of Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s career when he admitted that he turned down the opportunity to workout with LeBron James and various cast of other NBA superstars in the offseason. The reason for it, as he put it, was that he didn’t want to be friends with players off the court to take away from the competitive aspect and doesn’t feel right to him.

Although that may have caused him to be alienated at times by North American stars, Antetokounmpo is doubling down on his feelings about working out with opponents and being friends with them off the court.

As we all know, Antetokounmpo is a relatively private person who spends most of his time with his brothers, his partner, and his kids. So it comes as no surprise that he feels this way, but in a recent interview with Greek TV channel Cosmote TV (and translated by EuroHoops) Antetokounmpo explained further why he still holds that mentality.

"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."

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo still doesn’t want to be buddies with his opponents

Antetokounmpo had been more candid than normal during the Bucks championship run and especially so following their championship win. He has always been fairly open during his interviews, but more so lately. His answer to the question about his reluctance to train with his fellow players did not disappoint.

It’s nothing out of the ordinary for Antetokounmpo, who has maintained this sentiment throughout his career now, but it’s still interesting to hear his rationale for it. I find it very interesting that he doesn’t want to do dunk or block his friends if he’s playing against them.

Obviously, this is a thought process that is relatively unique among his peers and it could be an explanation as to why he is sometimes left out or alienated by his peers. That was also something he touched on in the interview about why that might be the case.

"Ι don’t know why. Maybe because I am not a product of the same system. But Luka Doncic, the magician was neither. I really don’t know. Maybe because of my game, because it’s unorthodox, maybe they don’t like it."

It’s a question that many Bucks fans have wondered in the past few years about why Antetokounmpo doesn’t get the recognition or praise from the top North American players that they give to other North American players. I do agree with Antetokounmpo that part of it is that his game is different than a traditional modern game with a lot of off-the-dribble shooting, but you’d think they’d respect someone who has won as many awards as Antetokounmpo has.

Another reason is that he isn’t friends with them off-the-court and therefore they believe he’s snubbing them or thinks he’s too good for them. However, Antetokounmpo routinely compliments the best players, even going so far as to call players such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant the best player in the world over himself.

It took a 50-point performance in the championship-clinching game of the NBA Finals to elicit a tweet from James about his performance. While we shouldn’t necessarily care about him not being accepted by his peers, it’s that there’s been a noticeable lack of respect shown to someone that has accomplished what Antetokounmpo has.

Antetokounmpo’s playing style and personality are both very non-traditional in today’s NBA, which throws some people off. He’s candid, but not arrogant and boastful. Fans continue to see his quotes and humble nature but assume it’s all an act. The problem is, he’s been doing the same thing for the entirety of his eight-year career. It’s not an act, that’s simply who he is.

Perhaps winning a championship to cap off a historically great playoff run will finally put to bed the criticism and earn him more respect among his peers. Just don’t expect Antetokounmpo to find out while training with them.

Next. Milwaukee Bucks: GM Jon Horst details decision to let P.J. Tucker walk. dark

Antetokounmpo averaged 30.2 points, 12.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.2 blocks in 21 playoff games this past season.