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July 19, 2021

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Milwaukee Bucks

Practice Day

Q. LeBron was at the game the other night. I'm thinking to myself that when LeBron was in his first Finals appearance, I don't think you even started playing basketball yet. It was 2007.


Q. You obviously noticed him. Did you engage with him at all? Not even LeBron, you know you're in the Finals when you have Adele courtside and the stars are out. Thoughts on that and how it hit you?

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Crazy. Yeah. First time he was in the Finals was 2007. I wasn't playing basketball. That's crazy to think about. Yeah, obviously I noticed LeBron James. He was sitting right across our bench. I didn't have the chance to engage with him, and I wouldn't engage with him. That's something that I don't do. It doesn't really matter who -- might be my mother sitting courtside. I don't engage while I'm playing. I just try to focus as much as possible.

But this is crazy -- this is a great story, this is not a promo. The night before I was watching "Space Jam" on HBO. I was watching "Space Jam," and there he goes in the courtside seat. But, no, I wasn't able to engage with him in any way.

Q. I know you guys like to focus on what's now and not necessarily the past, but how does the last couple of years of the heartbreak and not being able to meet those expectations maybe help you develop some mental toughness to where you guys can come back from deficits in the game or in the series? Do you think that has helped you mature and helped you grow to get to this moment now?

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: For sure. It helped me mature and grow and become more mentally tough. It doesn't really matter. This is a playoff game. Anything can happen. I remember in the (2019) Eastern Conference Finals, we were up 2-0 and lost four straight. I'm trying to think what was the mindset of the other team. Leaving Milwaukee down 2-0, and now they're thinking they got to go back home, protect home court and then come back here, get one. I'm just trying to think what they did and try to learn from our mistakes and our failures as much as possible. I don't focus in the past. I try to learn from it and move on.

I think it has helped me throughout my career. When we were down 2-0 -- they did it, why we cannot do it? That kind of thing. Or when we're up 2-0, finish. Get the job done.

One thing that I think I've learned personally in the playoffs, I think early in my career I was getting too high, too low. We played a good game, I was so happy, because you feel the intensity from the crowd, the fans cheering and all that, and how the trip back home if we were on the flight or whatever the case might be, we were here at home, playing at home, how I felt good going back home. I was getting too high, and maybe the loss I felt like it was the end of the world. I feel like this year, lose or win, that did not happen. I was the same kind of guy. I just live with whatever outcome comes because I believe that I'm supposed to be there in that time and place. So I don't really worry about the outcome. But I think that's one thing that we have done as a team. Knowing that being up 2-0, finish, close out games. Being down, it doesn't really matter. We got to figure out a way to win and never get too high, never get too low. You make six threes, doesn't really matter. The next game you make zero. I feel like we've moved on really, really good. And if Khris does it, if Coach does it, if Jrue does it, I feel like the rest follow.

Q. Two quick questions if I could: First of all, how hard was it for you to become the vocal leader? And what I mean is you've always been popular and well-liked team guy, so to get on somebody or to tell somebody, hey, you're needed to be here at this position or whatever, that's different; you put that popularity at some risk. But you've been more vocal this year. Was it tough or have you invested in your reputation and you can do that now because the guys know who you are? That's the first question.

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: To answer your question, I don't care about being popular and being the most popular guy. I could be the least popular guy on the team and just come here and do my job and go back home. I'll take that. It doesn't really matter. But I feel like when you play to win, that comes easier. Early in my career I was really quiet, and obviously with the language barrier it was harder for me. I felt kind of like I'll say the wrong thing, I'll say something stupid. So I just chose not to talk at all. But now it's a little bit easier for me. I can get a lot better. I think Khris and Jrue and guys and P.J. and Coach have helped me be more comfortable with that.

But yeah, I think early in my career it was the language barrier. I felt like I would say something stupid. But then I realized I would rather say something stupid than not say nothing at all. And throughout the journey, throughout my career, guys helped me, especially Khris. He was like, talk, talk, say something. And P.J., I've been with him for like two or three months. He's pushing me to talk. George Hill helped me a lot with it. Guys throughout my career helped me. But I can get a lot better. I can get a lot better.

Q. I know you're a family guy. Isn't Mariah expecting? Is she in her third trimester? Are you dealing with that at home or is this all?

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Yes, she is expecting. She is going through this pregnancy alone right now. No, I'm joking. But, no, she's expecting. She is healthy, she is fine, she is at home. Everything is going well.

Q. Great news.


Q. I guess in the seven months of the season quite a bit of it we had no fans, only a few fans, whatever, and now tomorrow you might have here 20,000 inside, 20,000 outside. At lunch the waiter was saying they don't even know how they're going to get to work, it's going to be so crowded here tomorrow. What does it mean to you to not only be at this stage but to be at this stage where Milwaukee can actually enjoy it if it happens, because we didn't know if that was going to be the case a couple months ago?

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: It's going to be amazing. Hopefully we can focus what we got to do and be in the present, compete as much as possible, play good basketball and be the team that wins at the end. Hopefully we can enjoy it with our family and with the fans and they can enjoy it also. I feel like it's something that you can feel the excitement in the city. The last time we were in the NBA Finals was 1974. It's been awhile. I'm happy that the fans are enjoying it. There's 20,000 people in the arena, 25,000 people outside the arena. But we got to focus. We got to do our job. Then they can do their job celebrating at the end. But we got to do our job first.

So we got to be in the present as much as possible. I can't focus on celebrating. I can't focus on that right now because I feel like you get too ahead of yourself. We got to focus. I got to focus right now, and then when the game comes tomorrow, focus on each possession at a time, a possession at a time. As I said, play good basketball, compete as hard as possible and put ourselves in a position to be able to win that game. That's all can you ask for. Hopefully we win. If we win, great. If we don't, we have one more chance. But if we win, it would be nice to celebrate with the fans inside and outside and with our families, because this is something historical that is happening in the city right now.

Q. Two things. First, you just mentioned that you have to try to stay in the moment. You said the same thing after Game 5, but this is a moment you've been talking about for years. How do you --

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: This moment right now? Talking to you right now? (Laughing.)

Q. I know every moment with me is special, but obviously I meant tomorrow. So how do you keep that out of your mind and focus on just playing the game and not thinking about everything else?

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: It's hard. It's hard, man, it's hard. Because you work so hard to be in that moment, which is tomorrow. It's hard not to get ahead of yourself. But this is the time that you got to be the most disciplined. That's what I'm going to try to do. I'm going to try to be as disciplined as possible. Don't get too excited. Don't get too pumped up for the game. None of that. I can't play the game right now. The game is tomorrow and I don't know, at six or nine, eight, whatever the time is. Right now, there's nothing I can do about that. So I don't even try to think about that. But it's very hard not to. Sometimes you sleep and you're dreaming about the game.

But this is the time that we have to be disciplined individually. Me, Khris, Coach, Jrue, Brook, all of the guys as a team, we got to be disciplined and we cannot worry about that. We cannot worry about having plans of celebrating. None of that, until it's done. And that is the mindset I'm going to have until tomorrow.

Q. When you were answering the question about the experiences you guys have gone through, you said that your mindset is a little different this year. Before the playoffs I asked you, why this year it would be different. And you said, I don't know if it's going to be different, but we're just going to try our hardest and see how it goes. What has made you --

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Because I was in the moment.

Q. I know. You were. And my question is, what is different about this year that you have not had those swings in emotion that you did in the past and you have been able to stay kind of present?

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: We didn't get too high, we didn't get too low. We didn't get too high, we didn't get too low throughout the season. As I said, we were down 0-2 to Brooklyn. Came back. We did our job. We're down right now. We came back, did our job. We were down against Atlanta. Came back, did our job. We were up against Miami. Went there, did our job. Tried to steal one, then tried to steal the second one. And as a team, I feel like throughout the year we didn't get too high, we didn't get too low. We kept focusing, building good habits. I think it comes from, as I said, Coach, Khris, Jrue, me, to have that mentality. And then you pass down to the whole team. So we did a really good job.

Now, is it going to end up well in the championship? Who knows. But no matter how you it ends up, I'm really proud of this team. Really proud of all the work we have put in.

Q. I know you enjoy talking about your feelings a lot, but I was going to bring it back to basketball for you. Middle of the fourth quarter, you had the ball on the left wing. You beat Ayton to the rim and you sneak in like a right-hand layup and-one. I feel like that's a move you've mastered this year. I would be curious why you went to that move. It's not a power move. It's a finesse move and your game is so much about power. I'm curious why you've started to use that?

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: That's what my instinct said in that moment. It wasn't premeditated. I just caught the ball, saw the angle, saw the space, was able to sneak one in. My game is not power. Come on now; my game is speed. Fast. No, I'm joking.

But as I said, I saw the angle, I saw the space. It's kind of hard to move your feet from here to here (motions with his hands). It's kind of hard to change your angle when you're defending. It's hard for me, so I know it's got to be hard for him. So that's why I was able to sneak one in.

Q. So that's not something you spent the offseason working on or something like that's -- it feels like you've done it before, but it's more often now.

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Yeah, no, I didn't spend the offseason. That's like an instinct move. I used to do it probably back in the day more, like work on it more, but I don't work on it as much because now it's almost like it's instinct. I don't think about it. There's some moves like, okay, I'm going to go there and make this move. You kind of have to work on it and then you translate to the game. But that move was just instincts.

Q. And then throughout these Finals we have seen multiple pictures and images of you hugging Khris or you leaning on Jrue like after a big play. How do you feel like you've gotten better at making this a "we" journey and not a "me" journey, like including everyone in that process?

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: Have to. Everybody is a part of this process. I don't think there's been anybody that has gone through this process by himself and go all the way and win the NBA championship. We have to do it together. I need Khris to be great, I need Jrue to be great, I need Bobby, all of those guys to be great. I feel like you see that more because once you see a team and guys put everything, all the effort, they compete and you see how tired they are after the games, that's why you kind of like -- because they go through this journey with you. I'm tired. I look next to me, Khris is tired and Jrue is tired or whatever the case might be. It's like they're my brothers. That's when you want to hug them, put your arm around them and, like, we got this, we got this together, we got to keep doing this together until the end. And we're close to the end. But that's why you see those moments more and more and more in the playoffs. In the regular season, no, I always try to stay COVID-free. I was staying away. (Smiles.)

Q. I do want to go back to your feelings for just a little bit. I know you're not active on social media right now. But the other day your words resonated with so many people talking about how the past, I believe, is your ego, right, and the future is pride and the moment is humble. What do you think of the fact that people accept your words, whether they know what a free throw is or a three-pointer is, that they're listening to you as a person to give life advice?

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: I don't know. I don't know if I should be that person, man. I just play basketball. As I said, it's something that helps me. That's what allows me to cope with all this. With basketball, with my life, my family. And it might help somebody else out there. If it helps, great. If it doesn't, it doesn't. Great, too, you know? But yeah, I don't know if I should be the one giving advice. As I said, this is something that helps me. It helps me go about my day.

Q. Based on your experience in prior series, what does it take to succeed in close-out situations?

GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO: You got to be in the present. You have to be in the present. Once that present comes, you'll know what it takes to be you successful. But right now, you don't know what it's going to take. It might be a defensive stop. It might be Jrue coming and saving the day again. It might be Khris getting points. It might be me blocking a shot. You don't know what it's going to take. But I know that we have to be in the present. You have to enjoy it. We have to compete. For now, that's the three things I know. Once the game starts, every possession is going to be different and we're going to figure out what it takes to win the game.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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