Giannis Antetokounmpo Beat Language Barrier To Be Vocal Leader


(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 17, 2021, Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks drives to the basket against against Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns during the second half in Game Five of the NBA Finals at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. – Overcoming a language barrier and roller-coaster playoff emotions have helped Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo move one victory shy of his dream of capturing an NBA crown. The 26-year-old Greek forward has sparked the Bucks to a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven NBA Finals with game six on July 20, 2021 at Milwaukee. (Photo by RONALD MARTINEZ / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

 

 

 

Overcoming a language barrier and roller-coaster playoff emotions have helped Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo move one victory shy of his dream of capturing an NBA crown.

The 26-year-old Greek forward has sparked the Bucks to a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven NBA Finals with game six on Tuesday at Milwaukee.

Antetokounmpo, a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, has become a vocal leader on a club where he once feared to speak up after arriving from Europe in 2013.

“Early in my career I was really quiet and with the language barrier it was harder for me. I felt like I’ll say the wrong thing, I’ll say something stupid, so I just chose not to talk at all,” Antetokounmpo recalled Monday.

“But now it’s a little bit easier for me. I realized I would rather say something stupid than not say nothing at all.”

Teammates such as Khris Middleton and P.J. Tucker have encouraged him to speak out even as his skills have evolved, from Most Improved Player in 2017 when he led the NBA in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks to his MVP 2019 and 2020 campaigns.

“Throughout the journey, throughout my career, guys helped me, especially Khris. He was like, talk, talk, say something. And P.J., I’ve been with him for like two or three months. He’s pushing me to talk. I can get a lot better.”

Antetokounmpo has also learned how to manage his emotions after the Bucks had the NBA’s best record in 2019 and 2020 but endured playoff heartbreak, falling in 2019’s Eastern Conference finals after taking a 2-0 lead on Toronto then being upset by Miami last year.

“For sure. It helped me mature and grow and become more mentally tough,” he said. “One thing I’ve learned personally in the playoffs, I think early in my career I was getting too high, too low.

“We played a good game, I was so happy, because you feel the intensity from the crowd, the fans cheering and all that. I was getting too high, and maybe the loss I felt like it was the end of the world.

“This year, lose or win, that did not happen. I was the same kind of guy. I just live with whatever outcome comes because I believe that I’m supposed to be there in that time and place. So I don’t really worry about the outcome. We got to figure out a way to win and never get too high, never get too low.”

 

MILWAUKEE, WI – JULY 19: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks during NBA Finals Practice and Media Availability on July 19, 2021 at Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images/AFP (Photo by ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN / NBAE / Getty Images / Getty Images via AFP)

 

– ‘Great passion’ –
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer has watched as Antetokounmpo has evolved on and off the court into the leader the Bucks have needed in their quest to end a 50-year title drought after reaching their first NBA Finals since 1974.

“The vocal leadership you’re seeing has been growing,” Budenholzer said. “Him just understanding how powerful and how impactful he is. Sometimes it’s being vocal. It’s maybe just helping teach or learn or grow in a moment.

“His understanding of what we want to do has grown. When you understand things better, you can communicate better. He’s got a high level of understanding of what we want to do both defensively and offensively.

“He’s got great passion, he’s got great commitment, he’s got great relationships with the players.”

 

MILWAUKEE, WI – JULY 19: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks warms up during practice and media availability as part of the 2021 NBA Finals on July 19, 2021 at Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant / NBAE / Getty Images / Getty Images via AFP)

 

Antetokounmpo feels a special bond as well.

“No matter how you it ends up, I’m really proud of this team, really proud of all the work we have put in,” he said.


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