‘Greek Freak’ Giannis Antetokounmpo gets guidance from Kevin Durant
From one seeker of the NBA title to another, the advice was simple: play for yourself
Giannis Antetokounmpo has become an NBA superstar, turning the Milwaukee Bucks from an also-ran to a perennial playoff team. The 23-year-old 6-foot-11 forward has become known for his devastating dunks, infectious energy, and fearless style on the floor.
Antetokounmpo has been featured on 60 Minutes, become a sensation back in his native Greece, and has helped the Bucks stay in their playoff series with the Boston Celtics — including tipping in a game winning shot last weekend. While that hasn’t been able to get him a table at a restaurant in Milwaukee, the small-market Bucks have become one of the more exciting teams in the league.
With his combination of speed, agility, and power, one player that the “Greek Freak” is often compared to is Kevin Durant. Durant, the reigning NBA Finals MVP and the 2014 League MVP, also spent a majority of his career playing in a small market — spending nearly a decade in Oklahoma City after one season in Seattle.
Durant left the Thunder for the Warriors prior to last season, angering basketball purists and old-timers. Antetokounmpo, who is not set to become a free agent until 2021, recently told ESPN that he wants to play out his entire career in Milwaukee.
Been There Before
That’s a familiar feeling for Durant who said he understood where Giannis was coming from.
“I was at that point,” Durant told ESPN. “I wanted the same things.”
Durant left the Thunder, in part, to improve his brand and legacy – something he felt he could accomplish in the Bay Area far easier than in Oklahoma.
“What I would say to him, I would tell him to play for himself,” Durant said. “Because he’s the one out there putting in the work, he’s the one out there getting up in the morning staying committed to the game.”
Even mentioning Giannis eventually leaving for bigger and brighter lights brings back bad memories for older Bucks fans. The legendary Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, playing alongside hall-of-famer Oscar Roberston, won the franchise’s only NBA title in 1971 (as Lew Alcindor) before forcing a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1974.
In a league where star players are traded at the first sign of decline or team financial issues, Durant suggested that Giannis look out for No. 1 going forward. Even if that leads to some hurt feelings in Wisconsin.
“Obviously [staying put] sounds good to the fans in Milwaukee and to the ownership, because he cares so much about wanting to please them and play well for them, and I get it,” he added. “I’m sure he has nothing but love and respect for everybody that helped him out in Milwaukee and all the fans that cheered for him, but his career is not about them. It’s about himself.”