During the offseason, a number of NBA superstars work out and scrimmage together in preparation for the coming season. That isn't the way reining NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo operates, though.
During his trip home to Greece, Giannis sat down with Greek hoops Hall of Famer Nick Galis and COSMOTE TV. He opened up about a number of topics, including his place in the NBA, and his relatively distant relationship with other stars.
Over the last few years, there had been plenty of speculation about Giannis' future with the Milwaukee Bucks. Ultimately, he opted to sign a long term deal with the franchise, and appears to be pretty locked in with the team after winning the title last year. He also makes it pretty clear that he is not one for building the kind of close friendships with other superstars that guys like LeBron James and Kevin Durant have fostered during their careers.
He does not believe that he can go out and play his best against someone with whom he's close. That's why you don't see him getting runs in with other stars in Los Angeles or New York during the summer.
"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," Giannis said, via Eurohoops.net.
"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."
He also speculated that his European upbringing has kept him from being fully accepted as one of the NBA's top players by his peers, even with two MVP awards and a title under his belt.
“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”.
Interestingly, he went on to address the infamous "no skill" comment made by James Harden, which most believed was about Giannis. The two had a pretty interesting rivalry brewing, but Giannis downplayed the situation, calling Harden a "Hall of Famer," and saying it didn't add motivation when the Bucks faced the Brooklyn Nets in the playoffs.
Even if he doesn't believe it, or chooses not to believe it for motivation reasons, it is impossible to deny that Giannis Antetokounmpo is clearly among the best few players in the league, even if he's taken a very different path to get there.