Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the most dominant players in the NBA today. He has won two consecutive MVP awards, a Defensive Player of the Year award, and led the Milwaukee Bucks to their first championship in 50 years.
But behind his success and smile, there was a dark period in his life that almost made him quit basketball.
In a recent interview with ESPN’s Malika Andrews, Antetokounmpo opened up about the challenges he faced in 2020, both on and off the court.
He revealed that he was dealing with a knee injury that limited his mobility and performance, as well as the emotional toll of losing his father in 2017 and being away from his family during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was ready to walk away from the game,” Antetokounmpo said. “I was like, ‘This is not worth it. Why am I doing this? I’m not having fun. I’m not happy.'”
Antetokounmpo said he felt isolated and depressed in the NBA bubble in Orlando, where he and his teammates spent months playing without fans and without their loved ones. He said he missed his newborn son Liam, who was born in February 2020, and his mother Veronica, who was stuck in Greece due to travel restrictions.
“I felt like I had no purpose,” Antetokounmpo said. “I felt like I was just going through the motions. I felt like I had nothing to look forward to.”
Antetokounmpo’s struggles were evident on the court as well. He averaged 26.7 points, 13.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game in the regular season, but he shot a career-low 63.3% from the free-throw line and 30.4% from the three-point line.
He also failed to lead the Bucks past the second round of the playoffs for the second year in a row, losing to the Miami Heat in five games.
Antetokounmpo said he contemplated leaving the Bucks and joining another team that could offer him a better chance of winning a title. He said he had conversations with his agent and his brother Thanasis about his future.
“I was like, ‘Maybe this is it for me,'” Antetokounmpo said. “Maybe I need a change of scenery. Maybe I need to go somewhere else where I can be happy.'”
But Antetokounmpo ultimately decided to stay loyal to the Bucks and sign a five-year, $228 million supermax extension in December 2020. He said he wanted to honor his father’s memory and his family’s sacrifices by staying with the team that drafted him in 2013.
“I wanted to make my dad proud,” Antetokounmpo said. “I wanted to make my mom proud. I wanted to make my brothers proud. I wanted to make Milwaukee proud.”
Antetokounmpo said he also found motivation and inspiration from his teammates, coaches and fans, who supported him through his difficult times. He said he regained his passion and joy for the game by focusing on improving himself and helping his team win.
“I realized that basketball is not everything,” Antetokounmpo said. “Basketball is just a tool that I use to make people happy, to make myself happy, to make my family happy. But at the end of the day, there are more important things in life than basketball.”
Antetokounmpo’s decision and mindset paid off in 2021, as he led the Bucks to their first title since 1971. He averaged 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5 assists per game in the Finals against the Phoenix Suns, including a historic 50-point performance in Game 6 that sealed the championship.
Antetokounmpo said he felt a sense of relief and gratitude after winning the title, as he hugged his brother Thanasis, who was also on the Bucks roster, and his son Liam, who was brought to the court by his mother Veronica.
“I felt like I accomplished something that I’ve been working for my whole life,” Antetokounmpo said. “I felt like I made my family proud. I felt like I made Milwaukee proud.”
Antetokounmpo said he hopes his story can inspire others who are going through hard times or doubting themselves.
“I want people to know that it’s OK to be vulnerable,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s OK to ask for help. It’s OK to not be OK.
Final Thoughts: Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Struggles and Triumphs
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s story is a powerful reminder that even the most successful and talented people can struggle with doubts, depression, and personal challenges. Despite his incredible basketball skills, Giannis faced difficult moments in his life that almost made him walk away from the game he loves.
His candid interview with ESPN’s Malika Andrews sheds light on the emotional toll that the COVID-19 pandemic and isolation in the NBA bubble had on him, as well as the ongoing grief he felt over his father’s death.
It takes courage to speak openly about one’s struggles, and Giannis’ honesty and vulnerability will undoubtedly inspire many people who are dealing with similar issues.
Furthermore, Giannis’ decision to stay loyal to the Bucks and sign a supermax extension shows his commitment to his team, his family, and his values. Instead of chasing instant gratification or a change of scenery, he chose to honor his father’s memory and make Milwaukee proud by working hard and improving his game.
His perseverance and dedication paid off in 2021, as he led the Bucks to their first championship in 50 years and cemented his place as one of the greatest players of his generation.
His 50-point performance in Game 6 of the Finals was a testament to his resilience and talent, and it was a joy to see him celebrate with his family and teammates.
Giannis’ story is a testament to the power of resilience, determination, and humility. He reminds us that even when we face difficult moments, we can find purpose and meaning by focusing on what truly matters: our relationships, our values, and our passions. As Giannis said, “there are more important things in life than basketball.”