Winning the MVP meant a lot for the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, which was obvious based off his emotional acceptance speech at the NBA awards.
But the Greek native would be willing to give it up for his country to win gold at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, which begins on Aug. 31.
"I would exchange the MVP title for the gold medal in China," he said to the event’s official website.
Antetokounmpo is set to become the first reigning MVP to compete in the World Cup. He will be the highest-profile player at the tournament by a long shot because many American stars turned down the opportunity to compete for their country this year.
On Saturday, New York Knicks forward Julius Randle became the latest player to withdraw his name from the roster, adding to a list that includes James Harden, Zion Williamson, Kevin Love, Damian Lillard, DeMar DeRozan, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal and Tobias Harris.
Team USA not as strong
With Team USA not fielding its strongest roster, the field at the World Cup is more open than expected. Experienced countries like Spain and a team like Greece that boasts the best talent in Antetokounmpo could give the Americans a run for their money.
Furthermore, this speaks to the level of importance that Antetokounmpo places on winning for his home country. His journey from Greece to the NBA has been well-documented, and he has definitely not forgotten about his roots despite the fame he has accrued in the United States.
At the World Cup, Antetokounmpo will get to play with his two siblings, Thanasis and Kostas.
"We're just trying to encourage each other and get better," Giannis said about playing with his family. "It is an incredible feeling that all three of us are together. We have worked very hard to get here and to achieve this. That's why I know that our mother is proud, as is our father, who I'm sure is watching us from the heavens."
While American players are sitting out due to health concerns or fatigue, Antetokounmpo appears to be going full throttle at the World Cup.
Might the decision have repercussions for the 24-year-old when he returns to the Bucks next season? Perhaps. But nobody can question his loyalty and commitment to his native country.
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