Milwaukee Bucks brothers Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo have spoken about playing in the Paris Game in January and playing together in the NBA next season.
Q: Looking ahead at the schedule, you obviously have a pretty interesting date on there with the NBA game in Paris. What are your thoughts on that game, looking ahead to it, and how important is it to you to grow the sport internationally?
Thanasis Antetokounmpo: “It’s amazing for the sport. We’re European, so we understand how huge this is, having a game in a place like Paris. It’s going to be really exciting for fans all over the world to come watch. I know people are traveling from all around Europe, from Africa, to come see the game in Paris, so it’s an exciting thing. It’s amazing.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo: “It’s going to be fun. We had a chance to go to London a couple years ago. That was really, really fun to play that game. As Thanasis said, fans from all around the world that go watch the game, especially from Europe. So hopefully we can represent the NBA the right way and give them a show to watch.”
Q: When I see the two of you together, I always think of shoes because in the early days, Thanasis, Giannis would borrow a pair of shoes you had to go play basketball. And today, you sit here together and Giannis has the best-selling debut shoe in the history of Nike. Gianni, how often do you think of the journey the two of you have been on that has you here together today?
Giannis Antetokounmpo: “I probably think about it every day. I think we both realize how blessed we are. And we cannot forget what put us in this position which is hard work, and that’s what we’re going to keep doing, pushing ourselves forward, believing in ourselves that things like that can happen. It’s amazing from where we started to where we’re at right now, it’s been an amazing dream, an unbelievable journey, and we’re going to keep working hard and we’re going to try to go farther.
Q: Thanaisis, your thoughts on being with your brother, finally?
Thanasis Antetokounmpo: “It’s something I’m really excited about. Just in general, not just being with my brother, but being with my family back in Milwaukee full time. Just to make my family proud, myself proud, I just keep working hard.”
Q: Giannis, I want you to say what you think about being with your brother on the team. You’ve been with your brother on other teams, but now, the NBA, that’s got to be even a little different.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: “Thanasis is a player that, he’s going to be ready. I’ve talked with coach a lot about Thanasis – this guy that sits on the left of me, I trust him. If you tell him to run through a wall, he’s going to run through a wall, and he’s going to get up and say, “which other wall do you want me to run through?” I know he’s going to be ready, I know he’s going to contribute defensively. Obviously offensively, he’s got to get better and know our game plan and the flow of our offense. He’ll be able to knock down shots, and he’s going to get better. He’s going to do the daily vitamins that we all do and under a great coach like Mike Budenholzer, he’s going to learn how to use him and he’s going to use him the right way to play with this team, defensively and offensively.”
Q: Last year was such a phenomenal year, but you’re coming in in a new role this year where you go from catching people by surprise to you being the hunted. What are your expectations coming into this year in this new role?
Giannis Antetokounmpo: “At the end of the day, we’ve got to do what we do. We cannot start thinking about what other teams are going to do against us and if teams are going to come out here in Milwaukee and try to play hard, and that’s going to happen. But we’ve got to focus on ourselves, which is getting better each day, competing in practice so it can carry over to the game and just build that winning culture and the great habits that we built last year, and if we do that, we’re going to be one of the teams that are going to be the last ones standing, and that’s our goal – to get better each day and improve.”
Q: Coach Budenholzer talked about how you’re trying to improve your leadership skills this summer. What is that process like, and how do you go about doing that?
Giannis Antetokounmpo: “You’ve got to be more vocal. You’ve got to lead by example. You’ve got to be able to accept criticism by your coach, by your teammates and be OK with it, and that’s what a leader does. My team knows who I am, they trust me, and I’m going to put my body and everything I’ve got on the line for this team. And by doing that, everything is going to take care of itself. As you grow older, you become more vocal – it’s easier to talk to your teammates, talk to your coach and tell them your thoughts and what you think about the game and how the game should go, and I think I’ve been able to take that jump each year of my career and I know I’m going to take that jump also because I think by going to the Eastern Conference Finals, by winning 60 games, by playing under a great coach like Mike Budenholzer, it gives you a lot of experience, and hopefully I can use that experience and my team can benefit from that.”
Q: How do you feel about the team that is put around you? Obviously they kept as many guys as they could, with some new additions, and the options and what you have to be the last ones standing?
Giannis Antetokounmpo: “It’s great that the whole team is similar. We have great pieces around this team that make this team a lot better than last year. All I can think about is, tomorrow training camp starts, and that’s day one. We’ve got to get better, we’ve got to compete. You guys are going to hear me say this all year and you’ve heard me say this six years so far: it’s all about getting better each day and taking it day by day. Obviously, we have the talent to play in June, but if we don’t focus about what we’re going to do right now, we’re going to get lost, we’re not going to get there. I’m happy that the team is the way it is. I’m happy that we have great guys who compete hard and have fun and love each other and like each other, and I know we have a chance here. So were going to try to get better every day, and hopefully we’re the team that plays in June.”