Then it got even funnier on Monday.
The Milwaukee Bucks star was one rebound short in the waning seconds of the 117-111 win with 23 points, 13 assists and nine boards. Rather than run out the clock after he grabbed his ninth board, Antetokounmpo strolled briskly back to the basket, purposely missed a lay-up and snagged his 10th rebound to secure the triple-double.
Giannis really created his own rebound to secure a triple-double 😅 pic.twitter.com/jjz7OXDsex
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 6, 2023
It would have been Antetokounmpo's fourth triple-double of the season, well behind Denver Nuggets big man and MVP favorite Nikola Jokic, who has 25. Luka Doncic, Domantas Sabonis and Ja Morant are all ahead of Antetokounmpo in the triple-double department. The Bucks star could have tied James Harden and Russell Westbrook with four on the season.
After the game, Antetokounmpo said he decided not to score just so the Bucks could keep possession before the final buzzer sounded.
"I was thinking about scoring the ball, but I feel like in those situations it's best to kind of keep the ball," Antetokounmpo said. "But yeah, I just try to play the game smart and kind of stole one."
Unfortunately for Antetokounmpo, the NBA wasn't a fan of his maneuver. Per ESPN's Zach Lowe, the league rescinded that last rebound on Monday because rules stipulate that in order for a field goal attempt, and therefore a rebound, to count, a player must shoot "with intent to score a field goal."
It's unclear if the league would have done so had Antetokounmpo not straight up admitted to trying to miss, but it probably gave them some peace of mind in doing so.
Antetokounmpo's situation similar to others
This isn't the first time a player tried to earn a triple-double this way.
Atlanta Hawks guard Bob Sura had his triple-double rescinded by the NBA in 2004 less than a day after his game after he rebounded his own intentionally missed shot. The NBA claimed that because Sura's shot wasn't legitimate (because he missed on purpose), he couldn't be given a rebound.
"I'm disappointed that my attempt to turn my third triple-double caused so much controversy," Sura said at the time. "It was never my intention to make a mockery of our sport and to take any attention away from our huge win over the Nets. If anyone was offended by my actions, I sincerely apologize."
Another — and funnier — example is what former Cleveland Cavaliers guard Ricky Davis tried almost 20 years ago to the day. He took an inbound pass on the Cavaliers' side of the court and threw a shot off his own basket to catch the rebound for his first-career triple-double.
March 16, 2003: One rebound away from a triple-double, Cavs’ Ricky Davis infamously attempts to manufacture one against the Jazz. Deshawn Stevenson and coach Jerry Sloan were not happy. pic.twitter.com/hyQo4Cs5Ip
— This Day In Sports Clips (@TDISportsClips) March 16, 2021
Obviously, shots on a team's own basket don't count as a field goal attempt, and therefore the subsequent rebound didn't count. Even worse, Davis was immediately fouled by Utah Jazz guard DeShawn Steveson after the attempt, and Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said he "would have knocked [Davis] on his ass." The Cavaliers fined Davis an undisclosed amount.
Antetokounmpo didn't get the same vitriol as Sura or Davis — yet — but it did re-open the NBA's stat-padding conversation ignited by ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins in February. Perkins claimed that Jokic, the MVP frontrunner, passed more to inflate his stats and get more triple-doubles. But after Antetokounmpo's intentional miss-and-rebound Sunday night, Perkins tweeted "every player padded their stats at some point during their career."