NEW YORK — Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo believes that people take the greatness of his game for granted — and he’s OK with it. The two-time MVP acknowledged Tuesday that he feels fans take his level of play for great like he feels they have done in the past with other all-time greats.
“Yes,” Antetokounmpo said after Tuesday’s 118-104 win over the Brooklyn Nets, when asked if he felt fans took his high level of play for granted. “Yes. And it’s OK. I don’t think I’m the first, I don’t think I’m the last. I feel like people take for granted (Kevin Durant), people take for granted LeBron James, people take for granted (Stephen Curry). You see all this greatness every day and they take it for granted until they’re not there no more.
“And you’re like, ‘Oh man. I miss those guys. I miss the show that they put on.’ It’s OK.”
Antetokounmpo, who missed Sunday’s win over the Phoenix Suns because of a quad injury, and dealt with a wrist injury throughout the All Star break was not upset as he answered the question honestly — more appreciative of his standing in the game.
“As I said, I’m not the first,” he said. “I’m not going to be the last, I just got to keep on going out there, enjoying the game of basketball. Because when I stop enjoying the game of basketball, the game is done. I got to keep on enjoying, keep on building, keep on trying to win games. I can’t control what other people think, if they take it for granted I can’t control that, I don’t take it for granted.
“When I go out there I try to give everything that I have — four minutes, five minutes that I played against Chicago, that’s all I had, the All Star Game when I played 10 seconds, that’s all I had. Against Miami at home, I don’t know how much I played, that’s all I had. Today, I played 30 minutes, that’s all I had. If I keep on giving everything I have, and I know I don’t take it for granted, I’m OK with that. If other people take it for granted, it’s their opinion, their mindset, it’s OK.”
The initial conversation started when Antetokounmpo discussed the various injuries he’s dealing with and how it’s been tough not to be able to finish games recently like he has done so many in the past. He admitted that part of the frustration comes when he tells people close to him that he’s hurting and they expect him to rise above the pain and play at the level everyone has grown accustomed to seeing.
“That’s the bad thing,” Antetokounmpo said. “When I went back home and I told my significant other ‘I’m hurting,’ she’s like, “Ahh, you’ll be alright, because you never get hurt.’ I feel like when I’m hurting, people don’t take me serious. But as I’ve said, we had a good conversation before this, for me to leave a game which I usually never do, I’m in pain. But at the end of the day, whatever I have to give, I try to give. That’s all I can do.””
The 28-year-old said he’s been relying on his faith recently to guide him on taking a break when he needs one.
“Right now, I know I have to put myself in a position to be healthy,” he said. “Because I’m a religious guy, I really believe that — when I hit knees with (Mike) Muscala, that was my first warning, then the Chicago game, I maybe (was) not supposed to play, but my stubborn said, “No, I want to compete.” And I hit my hand, that’s the second warning from God. And then the third warning He said maybe you stay (off) a few games and you should not be playing this game. I’m like, “Nope. I want to play this game because I love it, I’m obsessed with the game of basketball.” And I hurt my knee again. That’s the third warning, now I have to listen.”
Antetokounmpo said that resting from Sunday’s game, combined with the rest he got during the All Star break, has made him feel a lot better as the Bucks head down the stretch — especially as the group rides a 15 game winning streak into Wednesday’s game against the Orlando Magic.
“Being able to be a team that wins 15 in a row, it’s a great feeling,” Antetokounmpo said. “But it doesn’t matter if we lost five in a row. I’ve said this before, as long as we keep improving, keep building chemistry, keep playing together, keep competing, keep building championship level mentality and mindset, no matter what we face, no matter what adversity we face, we’re just going to keep on going … that’s all I care about.”