Giannis Antetokounmpo already has a ring in hand with a chance to win another this postseason. But there’s a multiverse reality wherein neither of those things would be true had the Milwaukee Bucks star listened to the creeping doubt in his head back in 2020.
Antetokounmpo made a stunning revelation about nearly calling it quits in 2020 as the pandemic loomed large over not just basketball but the entire world. The Bucks star recently sat down with Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to discuss his Charles Antetokounmpo Family Foundation or CAFF, with one of its biggest partnerships being with Antidote Health and a push to provide free mental health services in the Milwaukee area.
Asked about the motivation behind the push specifically to aid mental health, the Bucks star opened up about his dalliance with the idea of retiring early in his career. Giannis Antetokounmpo told the story of one specific encounter with a woman telling her grandkids that he was “the best player in the world” – just one of the thousands of such encounters and comments, both in real life, on TV, and online, that adds up to an immense pressure weighing down on the former MVP.
“Yeah, it’s good to hear that, but that’s a lot of pressure. Going through that … in order for you to be the best, you have to play like the best. You have to practice like the best. You got to carry yourself like the best. Which is not easy.
“As much as people say I’m handling it well, because that’s my personality…”
“It’s … not easy.
“In 2020, I was … ready to walk away from the game.”
Giannis continues talking, but it is now impossible to comprehend anything he’s saying.
“I had that conversation – yes – with the front office. I said…”
Success comes with a lot of glitz and glamor, but there’s also a heavy cost of trying to maintain or even surpass the success already in hand. Antetokounmpo signed the biggest contract in the history of the NBA that offseason, but the toll on his mental health was nearly too severe to ignore and almost led to him walking away from all the money.
“In 2020, I was ready to walk away from the game. I had that conversation – yes – with the front office.
“And, you know, very normally, everybody is looking at me like I was crazy. ‘You just signed the largest contract in NBA history and you want to walk away from the game and all that money…?’
“Mannnnn, you can take that money and shove it into your…”
As we all know, Giannis Antetokounmpo decided to persevere and ended up winning the ultimate prize a year later, taking the largest pressure for an NBA star off of his broad shoulders. It’s much more straightforward in the NBA, with rings ultimately defining the legacy of those in the upper echelon of players like Giannis. A championship in just his age-26 season was an instant suit of armor against all of the doubts and criticisms hurled against him early in his career.
Not everyone manages to win their championship equivalent in life, and the Bucks star knows that. After making his decision not to retire then, he’s helping ensure others have the resources and support system to continue on just like he did. That’s a true MVP.