Greek philosophy: Giannis stays humble in NBA Finals

Published July 17, 2021, 9:04 AM

by Agence-France-Presse

Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks tries to get off a shot under pressure from (left to right) Jae Crowder, Deandre Ayton, Chris Paul, Mikal Bridges and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns at Fiserv Forum on July 14, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Bucks defeated the Suns 109-103. (Photo by JONATHAN DANIEL / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Giannis Antetokounmpo spoke more like a Greek philosopher than a Greek NBA star Friday but his wisdom about living in the moment might just help the Milwaukee Bucks win the NBA Finals.

The Bucks rallied from 2-0 down to match the Phoenix Suns at 2-2 in the best-of-seven championship series entering Saturday’s fifth game at Phoenix.

Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Antetokounmpo, a 26-year-old forward, says Milwaukee was resilient by not dwelling on defeat nor pondering their fate, but by battling back one day and even one play at a time.

“I feel like once you’re living in the present and you’re enjoying the specific moment, you get to enjoy that moment to the fullest,” said Antetokounmpo. “Once you start thinking about the future, what’s going to happen, you’re kind of losing in between.”

Tempted by ego and pride, Antetokounmpo has chosen humility, his words a modern version of sage advice such classical Greek philosophers as Socrates, Plato or Aristotle might have offered.

“From my experience, when I think about like, ‘Oh, yeah, I did this, I’m so great,’ … usually the next day you’re going to suck. Simple as that. The next few days you’re going to be terrible,” Antetokounmpo said.

“I figured out a mindset to have that when you focus on the past, that’s your ego. When I focus on the future, it’s my pride. ‘Yeah, next game, I do this and this, I’m going to dominate.’ That’s your pride talking.

“I try to focus on the moment, in the present. That’s humility. That’s not setting no expectation. That’s going out there, enjoying the game, competing at a high level.

“That’s like a skill. I’ve tried to master it. It has been working so far, so I’m not going to stop.”

After two 40-point performances and a magnificent block on Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton, Antetokounmpo has much to be proud about, if he dwelled upon such things.

“I appreciate the moment. Great moment. We got to move on,” said Antetokounmpo.

“At the end of the day that’s in the past. Over with. I got to keep making winning plays. I got to keep competing. I got to keep finding ways to help my team be great.”

Antetokounmpo notes the difference between boastful thoughts of future games and setting goals with specific steps to take in order to achieve them.

“That’s the objective. That’s the plan. There are steps to it. You do little things. Being in the present allows you to do those things in order for you to get there,” he said.

“If you try to jump (skip steps), you’re going to fall in the cliff.

“For me it’s working. I’m enjoying my life. I enjoy the time with my family. It might not work for everybody. Some people might be thinking differently.

“You’ve got to invest in yourself. It’s going to make you enjoy your life more. That’s the objective, to enjoy every single moment you can. You’re not going to be happy all the time, but it’s to have joy.”

‘The ball gets heavy’

In the Bucks’ case, it has been knowing they can rally from 0-2 deficits such as they did in ousting Brooklyn in the second round and hope to do against the Suns. Only four times in NBA Finals history has a team lost the first two games then won the title.

“We worked extremely hard throughout the year building winning habits,” Antetopkounmpo said. “We don’t worry about the outcome. We just worry about going out there, making many plays, competing as hard as we possibly can, doing it together.

“We’re able to know that when we’re down, we still figure out ways to win games.”

Antetokounmpo doesn’t worry about finding a balance where he isn’t cramping in the fourth quarter as he has at times in the finals.

“I’d rather get cramps. That means I pushed myself too hard,” he said. “I can sleep at night. I know that I gave everything.”

Noting the pressures of his first NBA Finals, Antetokounmpo said, “The ball can get a little bit heavy down the stretch,” but denied every getting too nervous.

“Oh, hell no,” he said. “The ball gets heavy, but if you are only thinking about winning and you don’t think about what’s going to happen next. My mind is so occupied by that, I don’t think about the pressure.”

 
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