Giannis Antetokounmpo: "I thought about quitting basketball in 2020, it was difficult"

giannis antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo was seriously thinking of retiring  from basketball in 2020 during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In speaking with the Milwaukee Journal, the "Greek Freak" revealed that he even had that conversation with higher-ups.

"Everybody – no matter where I am – everybody is watching me," Antetokounmpo told Lori Nickel from the Milwaukee Journal. "I don't think I have the time to turn it off. Be myself. Kind of just be me."

Giannis also revealed a story illustrating how much pressure he has to deal with.

"I was in Orlando. I was walking through the hotel, and there was three little kids. We were in this hotel that was five minutes away from Disney World.

This lady was probably with her grandkids. She was like 55, 60 – she was my mom's age. And the kids were younger, like 5, 6, 7. And she said, 'Hey guys, you know who that is?' No, they had no idea.

'That's the best player in the world," she said.

"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," Antetokounmpo admitted.

Giannis revealed it's challenging to deal with this kind of responsibility.

"As much as people say I'm handling it well because that's my personality. It's hard. It's not easy. In 2020, I was ready to walk away from the game," Antetokounmpo said.

"I had that conversation with the front office," added the Greek forward.

Antetokounmpo says that he didn't feel happy at the time, hence he was thinking of retiring.

"If something doesn't make me happy, I don't do it," Giannis told the Milwaukee Journal. "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."

Interestingly, it was the summer when Giannis signed a 5-year $228,2 million contract with the Bucks.

"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…," Giannis continued.

But instead of quitting basketball, the two-time MVP sought help and began going to counseling. He told Nickel of the experience:

"I kept talking with this (counselor). He helped me a lot – not just being a better basketball player and being able to deal with it, but being a better partner, a better father, a better brother, and a 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."

Since then, Antetokounmpo went on to put together some of the most impressive seasons of his career.

Giannis led the Bucks to their first NBA title since 1971 in 2021, and he led the franchise to an appearance in the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2022.

Milwaukee finished the 2022-23 season first in the East with a 58-24 record.

Antetokounmpo had one of the best statistical seasons of his career in 2022-23, averaging 31.1 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game in 63 appearances.

Antetokounmpo is one of three prime MVP candidates with Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic.

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