As Team USA prepares to face off with Greece in the FIBA World Cup, Bucks fans are faced with one glaring question: are you a Bucks fan or a Giannis fan? (To be fair there are two Bucks per side but I still have trouble counting the second Antetokounmpo as a true blue Buck.) If forced to choose, I’d probably prefer to see Giannis go nuclear and eviscerate Team USA all by his lonesome while putting on the best performance of the entire Cup. I think I’m a Bucks fan who wants what’s best for Giannis.
But I’m not being forced to choose so instead I’ll reveal what I really want: Giannis to drop out of the tournament and rest up for the season.
I know that just weeks ago I touted how great the Team USA experience can be for players like Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton but Giannis isn’t on Team USA. He’s not playing under one of the GOAT coaches nor hob-knobbing with the other A level (or B+ level, this year) NBA talent. He’s playing out of pride and love for his family but honestly, Greece doesn’t deserve him.
Giannis was only granted citizenship to avoid him representing another country in the NBA draft. From the New York Times:
“He was given Greek citizenship in order to prevent him from traveling to New York as a Nigerian,” said Nikos Odubitan, the founder of Generation 2.0, an advocacy group that helps second-generation immigrants gain legal status in Greece.”
Now being held up as some poster-boy fairy tale for citizenship, Giannis was treated as every other African immigrant for most of his Greek life: persona non grata. The Times continued:
“When Antetokounmpo was still an ordinary mortal, he was seen as just another migrant in Greece illegally. Now that he is a basketball star, “he has become the ambassador for Greece,” Odubitan said. “Of course, we are all proud of what happened. But this is not what it takes to be a Greek citizen. We have engineers, doctors, all kinds of professionals, and the Greek state does not recognize them.”
Full disclosure, I’m selfish. I want Giannis to skip out because I want him as fresh as possible for the Bucks. He’s missed one game in international play and a handful throughout the 18-19 season for what would seem to be chronic knee pain. The MVP is putting his body on the line for a country that uses him as a walking PR stunt. The country where as “the son of African immigrants, he was perpetually vulnerable to attacks by racist militants, and to threats of deportation to Nigeria, a country he had never visited.”
The US isn’t perfect and I’ve certainly wonder how young black Americans feel about emblazoning their chests with the country that often seems indifferent–if not hostile–toward their very existence. I wouldn’t fault any of them for citing that as a reason to pass on representing their country. Giannis’ case for a lack of patriotism is probably even more personal.
Like I said, I’m just a Bucks fan who wants the best for Giannis…and the Bucks.