Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo was ejected from Wednesday’s 120-118 win over the Detroit Pistons for “two unsportsmanlike technical fouls,” before the ‘Greek Freak’ gave some fans quite the unique experience.
During the third quarter at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Antetokounmpo powerfully dunked on Pistons center Isaiah Stewart, giving Stewart a brief stare down before hustling back on defense
However, the officials deemed the brief flash of emotion enough to tag the two-time MVP with his second technical foul of the evening, resulting in his ejection from the game. He had received the initial technical foul in the first quarter for using profanity towards the referees.
Surprised by the decision, Antetokounmpo sat down courtside in a fan’s seat before being led off the court by his teammates and heading back to the locker room.
“After the dunk, Giannis turns to his opponent and taunts him and a taunting technical foul was called, an unsportsmanlike,” explained Crew Chief Rodney Mott in the Pool Report after the game. “And he was ejected from the game, per rule, because two unsportsmanlike technical fouls, you are ejected from the game.”
The official National Basketball Association (NBA) rulebook says: “If a player blatantly taunts an opponent, a technical foul shall be assessed.
“If a previous unsportsmanlike act has been committed and if this situation is BLATANT, a technical foul must be assessed and the guilty player(s) must be ejected.”
However, it can be difficult for officials to assess what is and is not a taunt within the context of a match and make quick decisions, not least because the definition of ‘blatant’ is arguably subjective and what constitutes a taunting foul is a gray area and susceptible to change on a game-to-game basis.
However, the controversial nature of Antetokounmpo’s ejection has sparked debate.
Star point guard Damian Lillard, who Milwaukee acquired in the offseason from the Portland Trail Blazers, described it as a “bad tech” while first-year head coach Adrian Griffin said he was “surprised” at the decision.
The ejection also drew headlines given the NBA’s recent commitment to ensuring its star players are on the court as much as possible.
In September, the NBA Board of Governors approved a new Player Participation Policy in an attempt to curb so-called ‘load management’ – the practice of resting star players during the regular season.
It was a “changed approach to reinforcing the notion that we’re an 82-game league,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at the time.
This, combined with the argument that fans are paying to see the best players on the court and want to see emotion and excitement during the games, has led to criticism of the referees on social media for ejecting Antetokounmpo over what appeared to be a minor infringement.
Despite the loss of the ‘Greek Freak,’ the Bucks managed to escape with the win, led by 34 points from Lillard.
Before his ejection, Antetokounmpo contributed 15 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three blocks.
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