When asked earlier this month how he manages to keep his ego in check despite everything that he has accomplished in his NBA career, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo spoke eloquently about what he has learned through basketball and life.
“I figured out, like, the mindset to have, that when you focus on the past, that’s your ego,” Antetokounmpo said. “‘I did this. We were able to beat this team 4-0. I did this in the past. I won that in the past.’ And when I focus on the future, it’s my pride. Like, ‘Yeah, next game, Game 5, I do this and this and this. I’m going to dominate.’ That’s your pride talking. Like, it doesn’t happen. Like, you’re right here.
“I kind of try to focus in the moment, in the present. That’s humility. That’s being humble. That’s setting no expectations, going out there and enjoying the game. Competing at a high level.”
Now that Antetokounmpo has added an NBA championship and NBA Finals MVP award to his resume, the man is going to flex that ego just a little bit.
Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to their first title since 1971 on Tuesday night, totaling 50 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks in Milwaukee’s 105-98 win over Phoenix. During his postgame media availability, the 26-year-old reflected on his decision to sign a supermax extension with the Bucks last year, and the importance of bringing a championship to Milwaukee.
“I couldn’t leave. There was a job that had to be finished,” Antetokounmpo said. “I feel like the bubble did not pay us justice. Give credit to the Miami Heat. They played great, but it did not pay us justice. Everybody was feeling homesick. We are a family-oriented team, wanted to see our families. But coming back, I was like, ‘This is my city. They trust me. They believe in me. They believe in us.’ Even when we lost … obviously I wanted to get the job done.
“But that’s my stubborn side. It’s easy to go somewhere and go win a championship with somebody else. It’s easy. I could go — I don’t want to put anybody on the spot — but I could go to a super team and just do my part and win a championship. But this is the hard way to do it, and this is the way to do it and we did it.”
Oh, that’s spicy. But the fun didn’t stop there.
When reminded of an old tweet in which he declared that he would never leave Milwaukee until the Bucks became a championship team, Antetokounmpo joked that he wanted to formally request a trade.
“I’m out now. Can I leave now?” Antetokounmopo said. “I want a trade. Who do I have to talk to about a trade?”
Maybe focusing on past success is in part massaging your ego, but it’s also pretty entertaining when Antetokounmpo is the one in front of the microphone.