Why Giannis Antetokounmpo chose the path of most resistance

He also has a whole bunch of framed sweaters in the basement. Some sweaters hang proudly on the wall; others lie haphazardly on a pool table or at the bar full of alcohol that Giannis doesn’t drink. Many are his, but curiously enough, he also has dozens of framed jerseys from other NBA players. Some might be what you’d expect: the uniforms of greats who played the game and have since retired or passed away. Dominique Wilkins, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant. But many of them – most of them – are his peers: guys he competes against during the regular season and the playoffs.

He has a framed Blake Griffin Pistons jersey. He has one from Kevin Durant and one from Steph Curry. James Harden – “A lot of people think I’m arguing with James Harden, which isn’t true,” he said, because if I was, why would his jersey be here? He continued the tour. “This here belongs to Luka Dončić, the wonder boy. Anthony Davis. LA, you know him. Jokić. I love the game! Oh, this is mine this year. This is from the MVP I won. The All-Star MVP. Bradley Beal. Damian Lillard. Dirk Roos. I love Derrick Rose. LeBron James, husband. Look! Look what he wrote for me.”

Many of the jerseys are autographed, some with short messages, but this particular one, a LeBron Lakers jersey, had a longer note and Giannis read it aloud: ‘To Giannis, aka The Greek Freak. Keep striving for greatness every day you wake up, brother. Love everything you represent in this hoop game, and off the court too. The limit is not the sky. Go over it.” LeBron had drawn with the outline of a crown.

Giannis proudly beheld the inscription: “That’s a great time, you know?”

He is aware, albeit distantly, that according to the NBA’s hyper-masculine league codes, you’re not supposed to revere your competitors, much less pick up their jerseys, let alone read with admiration what those competitors do. writing on those jerseys for reporters taking notes. But Giannis has never been good at those codes, and at times he has found the freedom to defy them. For example, he said, “People who talk to the sports psychiatrists and things like that call us ‘soft’. We’ve seen that in the past, like, “Oh man, I’m scared.” ‘Man, you’re soft. Get to work on that.’ That’s how it’s labeled. That’s why it’s hard for people to talk to someone and open up. Even for me it was very hard.”

He is convinced that all really good athletes are secretly in therapy. Some not so secretly. They use a word or a phrase and he knows it. Recently Giannis watched Naomi Osaka, the three-part Netflix documentary series, and was struck by the tennis star’s way of speaking about the challenges associated with her success. This is happening more and more now – in dealing with himself he has noticed how much other people are involved with something. He said he could spot some sort of struggle in Osaka’s eyes even before she started talking. “She wasn’t happy, she wanted to get away from the game and all that stuff, and it’s fucking hard, man,” Giannis said. He was talking about her, but he was also talking about himself. “I started when I was 18. When you’re so young and you do it, people don’t understand the amount of pressure because at the end of the day you don’t just have to perform and be the best, you have the big brand that you have to carry the fuck on your shoulder. You have your own country, Japan, which you have to carry on your shoulder. Or Greece, in my case. You have all these people to take care of. Sometimes…”

Give a Comment