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Tall Blacks’ World Cup opponent Giannis Antetokounmpo would trade NBA MVP title for gold medal

The Tall Blacks and the rest of his Group F opponents at the FIBA World Cup be warned, Greek star Giannis Antetokounmpo would trade the NBA MVP he won this year for a gold medal in China.

The Tall Blacks play Greece and Antetokounmpo, the first reigning NBA MVP to feature in the World Cup, in their last Group F pool game on September 5 in Nanjing.

The 211-centimetre Milwaukee Bucks superstar has told media in Greece what leading his country to triumph in China would mean to him.

“I would exchange the MVP title for the gold medal in China,” Antetokounmpo said.

Antetokounmpo was born in Athens to immigrants from Nigeria and because Greece doesn't have birthright citzenship, he and three of his four brothers were essentially stateless for his first 18 years.

NBA player Giannis Antetokounmpo, of the Milwaukee Bucks, reacts as he accepts the most valuable player award at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 24, 2019, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
The emotion poured out Giannis Antetokounmpo after he was named NBA MVP. Source: Associated Press

“I always feel something special when playing for the national team, when you are starting the tournament and listening to the national anthem. The emotions can’t be described.

"After the first basket, the first plays, it is an amazing experience and every time I feel as proud as the first time.”

Antetokounmpo also said he would be available for Greece if fit unlike a host of NBA stars including numerous American players, Steven Adams and Australia's Ben Simmons who are not playing in the World Cup. 

“The feeling of winning with the national team is incredible, and I have said before that I will always be part of the team as long as I am healthy like this summer,” he said.

Adding to the significance for the man named ‘The Greek Freak’, his older brother Thanasis and younger brother Kostas are in the Greek side with him.

"We’re just trying to encourage each other and get better," he said. "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."

The Tall Blacks and Greece will also play the other Group F teams, Brazil and Macedonia.

Basketball player Giannis Antetokounmpo, of the Milwaukee Bucks, takes part in a training session of the Greek national team on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019 ahead of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Giannis Antetokounmpo. Source: Associated Press


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