Here’s a new one: Greece’s basketball federation has accused the Milwaukee Bucks and the NBA of executing “an organized and well-staged” conspiracy to prevent Giannis Antetokounmpo from participating in Eurobasket this summer. Antetokounmpo announced on Facebook Saturday that knee pain would force him to withdraw from playing with Greece’s national team (translation via Facebook):
“I want everyone to be informed by me that I won’t be able to boost our national basketball team. All this time I’ve been pushing myself to practice. I’m trying to fool myself—I’m not in a lot of pain and I’ll be ready for games. My will has influenced my judgment, but on the test I made here in China with the Bucks, it was time for the truth.
I failed to successfully complete the exercises I was subjected to and the pain stopped me from the first seconds. I have to accept the truth and face her mature. I have to work and improve as much as I can, the problem I’m facing on my knee.
Last year I had the option to freeze the deal for my new contract. This year I have no choice. I’m injured, the pains haven’t subsided, and I have to get better.
It’s the biggest disappointment I’ve ever felt in my career. I want through my heart to wish all my teammates and coaches good luck. The National Team is my favorite team, and in the future I will prove that along with my teammates we can take her up and make all the Greeks happy.”
Apparently, because the announcement was made while Giannis is visiting China, the Greek federation was persuaded that this development was somehow forced by the shadowy meddling of the NBA and the Bucks. From an ESPN summary:
“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us ... but is not surprising,” the federation said in the statement.
“A series of indications ... had convinced us of the existence of an organized and well-staged plan by (Antentokounmpo’s NBA) team, with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”
Eurobasket’s website makes it clear that the Greek federation anticipates all the sordid details of this dastardly plot will soon become clear. What could this even look like? Do the Bucks have Giannis dick pics or something? The NBA issued a statement categorically denying the existence of any underhanded influence in Antetokounmpo’s decision:
“The NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks have followed all appropriate protocol under the NBA-FIBA agreement,” the NBA said in a statement released to The Associated Press. “Giannis has an injury that has been confirmed through multiple examinations and any suggestion to the contrary is false.”
Giannis is, beyond any doubt, one of the small handful of most exciting, entertaining basketball players in the world, and, frankly, I wouldn’t be especially shocked if the league pulled strings to keep him from risking his health this summer. Especially if he’s ailing in any way! But that doesn’t make it so! Probably the Greek’s are being a little ridiculous.