This is going to play well with certain aging, “get off my lawn” thinking former NBA players turned analysts.
There is a camaraderie, a fraternity among NBA’s elite players because they often grew up going against each other — starting in AAU ball, at major off-season invite events by Nike or other shoe companies, in college — and the guys become friends. That sometimes leads to the kind of empowered player movement that drives the old-school guys crazy.
Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t play that way.
Antetokounmpo didn’t grow up on the American basketball circuit and isn’t looking to be tight with guys now, he told Sam Amick of The Athletic in a fantastic feature worth your time. In it, Antetokounmpo is asked about not getting an invite to Kobe Bryant’s offseason “camp” with other NBA stars a few weeks before training camp opened (Antetokounmpo noted he was with the Greek national team at the FIBA World Cup and couldn’t have gone anyway).
“Man, it’s not that I don’t want to (learn from other stars). I get better every day. I’ll learn from the 15th player on our team. I’ll learn from (Bucks reserve guard) Frank Mason. But my competitive nature is so high that when I go and practice (with other stars), I can’t do it. That’s me. I’m not saying it’s right, but that’s me. I just know myself. I know that because I’m a nice person, I’m going to start building relationships (with those other stars). And then I’m going to go against those guys, and they’re going to be my friends.”
So, I asked him, you don’t want to take the competitive edge away?
“No, I don’t,” he said. “I want to play for 20 years and just play, and then make friendships at the end.”
Old-school guys are going to love that.
The idea that players don’t go as hard at their friends on the court is foolish — I went harder at my friends and family than I did against strangers. Most people are that way. It’s about bragging rights and ego. You don’t want to lose to your brother in a driveway one-on-one game. It is possible to compete full-out with someone on the court and not carry that over off the court.
That’s just not Antetokounmpo. He’s got to do what works for him.
Right now, just about everything is working for him.
In the article, Antetokounmpo also talks a lot about his drive and the room for him to get better. And Kyle Korver agrees that there is a lot of room for the Greek Freak to grow. Which should scare the rest of the league.