Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo talked about his experience during the All-Star Weekend in Chicago, playing with fellow Africans on Team Giannis and more.
Q. Giannis, I want to ask you about yesterday, being on the same stage with President Obama. What did you get from that experience, and what was the biggest thing you learned?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: It was a great experience. Obviously, I was extremely nervous. It was the second time meeting Barack Obama. Had guys on the stage, Chris Paul was there with me, Kevin Love was there. We were just there to like share our stories, what we’ve done for the community, what we are about to do for the community. Personally, I was just there to learn.
Obviously, Chris Paul has been in the league for 15, 16 years, Kevin Love the same. I was there to learn from them, and what I’ve heard, because I’m a private guy, I don’t like sharing a lot of what I do, how I spend my time, but what I learned from him is that, in order for you to change people’s lives and make a change and hope that other people can change and follow the right path, you’ve got to be more public. So that’s what he told me. And we had a conversation, and he gave me a lot of advice about my son.
But it was a great experience. It was great being next to Barack Obama and obviously Kevin Love and Chris Paul also.
Q. This All-Star Game played with a very different format than what we’ve seen in the past. I just want to get your general thoughts, both of you, on this format. Would you like to see this type of format going forward?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: After the game, my brother came down, and he said, this has been the most fun All-Star he’s been a part of. And I asked him why, and he told me, “Because you guys were really competitive. You guys were playing to win.” Team Giannis, that’s what we were trying to do. We were trying to come out, set the tone, play hard. Especially in the fourth quarter, the defense got tighter. Guys were hitting one another. Every possession counts. We had a little bit of playoff intensity out there.
So I loved it. I hope we can keep the same format for a lot of years, and I think people had fun, we had fun. So that’s what it’s all about.
Q. Giannis, why was it important for you to have your brothers, Pascal Siakam and Joel Embiid on this team and picking them, given your African heritage, and what was it like to share the floor with them and what message does it send to the world about the talent from that continent?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Obviously, it meant a lot to me. Obviously they’re from Africa. Bam Adebayo also. I don’t know if he claims his African side. He says he’s half African, but okay.
It’s really important. Obviously, Africans are really hardworking people. I’ve played with Joel in the past. I love playing with him. Siakam, I’ve never had the chance to play with; that’s why I picked him. Obviously it can send a message that Africans unite, we have one another’s back.
Q. Giannis, for you to close out that game, defensively you got to switch on a lot of guys, make plays that way, and then offensively you were getting the ball. Can you take me through the last couple of minutes on both sides of the ball.
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Obviously, defensively I got a little bit out of breath. We played for like 25 minutes in the fourth quarter. Yeah, they were trying to like make the small guys switch on LeBron because they knew that we were switching. Coach Nick Nurse told me to send towards the middle, so he could not go to the screen. That’s what I tried to do.
Offensively, we were just trying to find whoever James Harden was guarding. That’s who we thought we’d have the opportunity to score on.
Obviously, you cannot go wrong — Kemba, Kyle, Joel, me, Siakam, everybody is great players. Whoever has the ball is going to make a play for the guy next to him, and it’s going to be good because we’re all great players.
Q. Giannis, how proud are you of the way that Milwaukee was represented this weekend? Knowing that just a few years ago you guys won 15 games.
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: I’m really proud of Khris, Pat, Bango. I think we did a great job just representing Milwaukee, our families also. I mean, a few years ago we won 15 games, and now we’re one of the best teams in the league. So we’ve just got to keep going. Just got to put our head down, stay humble, and just keep going. Obviously, we enjoy this journey, but we’ve got a long way to go.
Q. Giannis, a few years ago, Kobe challenged you to win an MVP. You went and did it. Now you’re an All-Star Game team captain. How will you continue to carry on his legacy?
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: I’m just trying to do what I’ve been doing since day one, which is get better, be humble, help my teammates be great. But at the end of the day, I think the most important thing is get better. Whenever I have a chance to go out there, I just play with an edge. That’s pretty much it. When you do that, I think everything takes care of itself.
Q. Giannis, yesterday you said that the Dunk Contest last night was the best Dunk Contest you had ever seen. You had been in the Dunk Contest once before. I’m wondering if you would ever entertain the idea of returning to the Dunk Contest.
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: No. There’s no way I can compete with the guys that was in the Dunk Contest yesterday. No way. But you know why I said that? I think because every dunk we saw, somebody was jumping over a person, and every dunk it was the first time we’ve seen a dunk like that. Like we can go through every dunk, there’s never been a dunk like the dunks we saw yesterday in the previous years.
It was kind of crazy because like, when I realized that even Pat jumped over Christian Yelich, and he took a 45. Past years, you jump over somebody, you take a 50. That’s what it was. I think everybody had fun.
But, yeah, hopefully, the Dunk Contest moving forward can be as fun as the one last night.