Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the best NBA players on the planet, if not THE best but the “Greek Freak” almost ended his career in 2020.
Antetokounmpo told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “It’s hard. It’s … not easy”, talking about the pressure of always being the best and the way you are expected to perform night after night.
2020 was a tough year for the majority of the world and Antetokounmpo was dealing with the stress of playing for the Bucks in the NBA Orlando COVID-19 bubble, as well as the things he carried with him from the years prior.
These included the unexpected death of his father in 2017, the exhausting feat of becoming MVP (in 2019), his home country Greece needing him for the national team and taxing endorsement obligations which were all taking a toll on his mental health.
“In 2020, I was ready to walk away from the game. I had that conversation – yes – with the front office,” Antetokounmpo said.
“And, you know, very normally, everybody is looking at me like I was crazy. ‘You just signed the largest contract in NBA history and you want to walk away from the game and all that money…?’
“Mannnnn, you can take that money and shove it into your…”
“But. I don’t care about that. I care about joy. I’m a joyful person. My father didn’t have nothing; he had us. He was the richest person on earth because he had his kids. He had the beautiful family; he had nothing. This – to me – doesn’t mean nothing.”
Instead of quitting basketball, the six-time All Star talked to a therapist and recently detailed his experience.
“I kept talking with this (counselor),” Antetokounmpo said “He helped me a lot – not just being a better basketball player, being able to deal with it; but being a better partner, better father, better brother, better son. Better person. Being not locked into myself, being able to give people what I feel. Because at one point, I was trying to get away from everybody. And that’s not me; I’m very social. I like to interact with other people.”
The then-25-year-old won his second consecutive MVP award in that same bubble season and went on to lead the Bucks to their first NBA title since 1971 (in 2021) and followed that up with an appearance in the Eastern Conference semifinals (in 2022).
This season, he has taken his already unbelievable game to new heights, enjoying one of the best statistical seasons of his career. Before the postseason, he averaged 31.1 points, 11.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists in 63 games while shooting 55.3 percent from the field and 27.5 percent from deep.
The star forward has also firmly asserted himself into the MVP conversation and Milwaukee finished the regular season with the best record in the entire league, so are very much primed to win another championship, especially with Giannis at the helm.