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Giannis on Why He's Not Friends with NBA Stars: Was Kobe? Was Jordan?

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 28, 2019

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets Tuesday, March 26, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Morry Gash/Associated Press

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo sat down with Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and explained why he doesn't fraternize with his opponents:

"Was [Kobe Bryant] ever close?" Antetokounmpo told Wojnarowski in an interview released Wednesday. "Was Kevin Garnett ever close with the guys he played against? Or [Michael Jordan]?"

Antetokounmpo further clarified his stance.

"I think it's just being competitive. If I know that I'm going to play against them and I'm going to see them in the playoffs or I'm going to see them in many more years to come, I try to stay away and not build that relationship because I know that when I get on the court I'm going to go 100 percent. And maybe if you build a relationship with somebody or I'm close with somebody, he probably expects me to go 50 percent or take it easy on him. But that's...I don't want things holding me back when I go out there and play."

The NBA is a far friendlier league now than it was at the end of the 20th century, when bad blood ruled in rivalries between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s, the Detroit Pistons and the entire league in the late 1980s and early 1990s and the New York Knicks and Miami Heat in the mid-to-late 1990s.

That seeped into the 21st century a bit, as evidenced by the Russell Westbrook vs. Joel Embiid rivalry. However, competitors seem far closer than they ever have been before, with the friendships between LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade representing that notion.

Antetokounmpo doesn't want to take part in that trend, however, and who can really blame him after seeing his team's results? The 56-19 Bucks have the NBA's best record and a four-game edge over the Toronto Raptors for first in the East.

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Most importantly, Antetokounmpo is a great teammate. Fox Sports Wisconsin interviewed a few other Bucks, all of whom raved about the likely NBA MVP's work on and off the court:

The Bucks host the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday before embarking on a three-game road trip.

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