Giannis: I'd Trade NBA MVP Award for 2019 FIBA World Cup Gold Medal

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistAugust 5, 2019

Basketball player Giannis Antetokounmpo, of the Milwaukee Bucks, takes part in a training session of the Greek national team on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019 ahead of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Petros Giannakouris/Associated Press

While numerous Americans have backed out of the chance to represent their country at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, Giannis Antetokounmpo is taking it seriously.  

"I would exchange the MVP title for the gold medal in China," he said, per the event's official site.

The Milwaukee Bucks star will represent Greece in the upcoming basketball world championship, a country that has been eliminated in the Round of 16 during the last two tournaments after earning silver in 2006.

Greece has never won a gold medal at the event.

Antetokounmpo has already had plenty of success at the NBA level, earning three straight All-Star selections and breaking through with his first MVP award this past season. He led the Milwaukee Bucks to the best record in the NBA and the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to the eventual champion Toronto Raptors.

It will be significantly tougher to find this level of success at the FIBA World Cup, although he will get some help from his brothers, Thanasis and Kostas, who will also be on the roster.

Even if it's a difficult path, Giannis is excited to represent Greece:

"I always feel something special when playing for the national team. When you are starting the tournament and listening to the national anthem, the emotions can't be described. After the first basket, the first plays, it is an amazing experience and every time I feel as proud as the first time. The feeling of winning with the national team is incredible, and I have said before that I will always be part of the team, as long as I am healthy like this summer."

Antetokounmpo represented Greece during qualifying for the 2016 Summer Olympics but could not guide his team to Rio de Janeiro as a 21-year-old.

His approach is much different from that of players from the United States this summer. The team remains a favorite but has seen several stars like Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal, James Harden, Anthony Davis and more decline invitations.