Giannis Says He's 'Still Hurting' After Playing Through Knee Injury in NBA Finals

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 24, 2021

FILE - In this July 20, 2021, file photo, Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo holds the NBA Championship trophy, left, and Most Valuable Player trophy after defeating the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee. One month after leading the Bucks to their first NBA title in half a century, Antetokounmpo is teaming up with the city’s other major pro sports franchise by joining the Milwaukee Brewers’ ownership group. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo said Friday on Greek television channel Cosmote TV that he is still hurting from the knee injury he suffered during the 2020-21 postseason. 

"If you work hard, you don't drink, don't smoke, do what you have to for eight, nine years, you can be ready for a misfortune. I shouldn't have played in Game 1 of the NBA Finals," he said (h/t Eurohoops). "I was in a lot of pain. I'm still hurting. But I'll be OK."

That Antetokounmpo played injured through the NBA Finals adds to his legendary performance. He averaged 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals per game and won the Finals MVP award.

His 50 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks and two assists in Game 6 to clinch the championship was one of the great postseason performances in NBA history given the stakes and the stage.

At age 26, the Greek Freak is an NBA champion, NBA Finals MVP, two-time regular-season MVP, five-time All-Star, three-time first-team All-NBA selection, three-time first-team All-Defensive selection, the 2016-17 Most Improved Player and the 2019-20 Defensive Player of the Year. 

Just don't remind Giannis about his accolades—he doesn't want to grow complacent. 

"I can't be fake. I am Giannis. But calling me MVP, calling me champ, calling me the best player in the world, is something that might hold me back," he told Cosmote TV. "And I don't want anything holding me back. I want to look forward and be better."

So if Antetokounmpo isn't the best player in the world, who is? He listed Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic, Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis as players worthy of the label before settling on King James as the wearer of the crown.

“I like being a hunter," he added. "I am not the best player in the world. I am telling you, I am not!"