Where would the Milwaukee Bucks be without Giannis Antetokounmpo? The two-time MVP led the team to their first NBA Championship in 50 years when the Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns in six games in the 2021 NBA Finals. Giannis famously dropped 50 points to clinch the final game and Finals MVP. Already he is the Bucks’ all-time leader in most statistical categories. In short, Milwaukee likely would not have a team, or at least a competitive one, without him.
According to an interview that Giannis did with Lori Nickel of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, however, the Bucks were close to losing him at one point.
The Milwaukee Bucks Almost Lost Giannis in 2020
Giannis is never one to shy away from sharing his feelings. The COVID-19 pandemic mixed with the pressure of being in the limelight took a toll on his mental health. So much so that he nearly walked away from basketball for good, even after signing the largest contract in NBA history. Giannis told Nickel:
“If something doesn’t make me happy, I don’t do it. I don’t want to do it. I’m just going to stay home, stay with my kids, stay with my family and try to be happy. I don’t care.
“And this was right when I signed the largest contract in NBA history.
“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…”
“But. I don’t care about that. I care about joy. I’m a joyful person. My father didn’t have nothing; he had us. He was the richest person on earth because he had his kids. He had the beautiful family; he had nothing. This – to me – doesn’t mean nothing.”
So what convinced Giannis to stay? Addressing his mental health and talking to a therapist:
“I kept talking with this (counselor). He helped me a lot – not just being a better basketball player, being able to deal with it; but being a better partner, better father, better brother, better son. Better person. Being not locked into myself, being able to give people what I feel. Because at one point, I was trying to get away from everybody. And that’s not me; I’m very social. I like to interact with other people.
“And I started talking to him and he helped me. Then I had this event in Saint-Tropez with Kevin Love. And we talked about it.”
Kevin Love, of course, was one of the first professional athletes to share publicly that he has depression and anxiety, conditions that many Americans live with every single day.
We can be thankful that Giannis stayed in Milwaukee and playing basketball. He has taken basketball in this city to levels it had not seen in decades.
But we can and should be more thankful for Giannis the person. Mental health struggles are a real issue in our society. We are thankful that he got the help that he needed, and we should be grateful that he is willing to share his struggles. The more prominent voices there are talking about mental health, the quicker we can remove the stigma that surrounds it.
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