Giannis: I Don't Want to Become 'More Americanized' to Be Face of NBA

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2019

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo stretches before an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers Sunday, March 17, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
Aaron Gash/Associated Press

Milwaukee Bucks superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo says he's not going to change his personality to fit into the American mainstream culture in order to become the face of the NBA.

According to Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the MVP candidate said he's thought about how his European background might affect his popularity:

"A lot of people say that I can be the face of the league. Lately, people have told me … the closest people, you know, my family, my girlfriend, my mom, my brothers, people say that I cannot be the face of the league because I'm not American, I don't have the American culture in me.

"I sat back and thought about that; should I have a little bit more American swag, should I come with a suit to the game, should I be more Americanized? But, man, if I can't be the face of the league being me, I don't want to be the face of the league. That's pretty much it."

The 24-year-old three-time All-Star was born and raised in Athens, Greece, helping him earn the nickname "Greek Freak" during his rise toward basketball stardom.

He started his professional career with EFAO Zografou in Greece before the Bucks selected him with the 15th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft.

Antetokounmpo has developed into one of the league's best players. This year, he's averaging a career-best 27.5 points—tied with the Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James for fourth in the NBA—along with 12.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals across 65 appearances.

He leads the league in player efficiency rating and ranks third in ESPN's Real Plus-Minus.

While Antetokounmpo's basketball talent is undeniable, he doesn't generate the same type of attention as the likes of James or the Golden State Warriors duo of Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

He told Velazquez he never expected to find himself compared to LeBron in any way, shape or form:

"I didn't expect myself to be getting that close and tight with LeBron James because he's [expletive] LeBron, [expletive] LeBron James, man. Coming into the league, I never saw myself as one of the best players in the league and being that LeBron type of player. That's the truth. I could say, 'Yes, I always thought I could be like LeBron James or better or whatever,' but that's not the truth."

James would likely be the first person to warn Antetokounmpo about the pitfalls of being both an elite player and an American celebrity, considering the drama LeBron and the Lakers have dealt with since he signed as a prized free agent last summer.

Along with not wanting to change his personal style to fit expectations of the face of the NBA, the Bucks star is probably better off staying out of the spotlight so he can focus on basketball.

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