Giannis: ''I think about winning with Greece every day''
MILWAUKEE (USA) - Giannis Antetokounmpo has scaled the heights in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks, capturing an NBA crown in 2021 and winning back-to-back league MVP honors the two years before.
The superstar has a burning desire to achieve titles with his country, Greece, as well, starting with the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.
Greece have not won a championship since 2005, at the FIBA EuroBasket in Belgrade, while at the World Cup, they are still hoping to top their best result of 2006 when they stunned the USA in the Semi-Finals to reach the Final.
Antetokounmpo wants to feel the exhilaration of a title with Greece, just as he experienced with Milwaukee.
"I always think about representing the national team in the best way, and how much I enjoyed wearing its shirt in the summer," he said on Sport 24.
"It's completely different to play for Milwaukee, to represent the city, your teammates, but to play for the national team and wear the jersey is something heavy.
"I love this feeling; I love representing 11 million Greeks in the country and another five million in the rest of the world, because I saw that there was again that spark for basketball. If I'm the reason for it, it's a great feeling."
Antetokounmpo is the MVP of any team he plays for because of his production, and his work ethic.
When the Bucks were in the NBA Finals, teammate Jrue Holiday said: "The way he works, there's times where we have to tell him to chill and practice or shoot around."
Before last year's EuroBasket, Nick Calathes gave a long interview about the national team and hailed Antetokounmpo as the best.
"Giannis is the most dominant player in the world," he said. "It's easy for us to play with him. He creates and makes things easier for players ... He brings us freedom on the offensive end and delivers energy on defense."
No coach knows Antetokounmpo better than Mike Budenholzer in Milwaukee, who once said of his star: "He's a great playmaker, he's a great passer, he's a great screener. He does so many things..."
The passion for Greek basketball has always been intense.
Antetokounmpo's presence, since the World Cup in 2014, has ensured that it continues.
More and more Greeks, whether they are at home or abroad, root for Antetokounmpo whenever he plays but especially if it's for the national team.
"TO PLAY FOR THE NATIONAL TEAM AND WEAR THE JERSEY IS SOMETHING HEAVY."
At EuroBasket 2022, where he averaged a tournament best 29.3 points per game and his efficiency was No. 1 at 32.7 per game, his presence led to huge attendance by flag-waving, raucous Greece fans.
In the NBA, he averages an eye-popping 31.0 points, 11.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists. Antetokounmpo has been bothered by a knee injury some this season yet expects to play this coming summer.
"Winning a tournament is always something I want and I think about it every day," he said. "It's still a long way away, five to six months. I know we have the World Cup in the Philippines, which we've qualified for.
"Right now I'm trying to focus on getting healthy and getting back on the floor to help my team in the championship. It is my obligation at this time."