The 2021 NBA playoffs brought Giannis Antetokounmpo his first-ever NBA Championship. Apparently, it also almost ended his career.
In an interview with The Athletic's Sam Amick, the Bucks superstar shed some light on his 2021 leg injury and revealed just how serious it really was.
"It killed me. Game 1, there was a play where Jae Crowder shot and I stepped on his leg. And you know how he does this kick thing, and I literally tried to avoid him and he kicked me on my leg and my leg hyperextended.
“What basically happened is that if my leg had hyperextended one more time,” he said while smacking his hands together, “I was done. I was done. There’s nothing to cut that was in there. It was torn already. It was out — (the piece that) protected me from an MCL or ACL (tear). There’s a thing (in your leg) that protects you when you hyperextend (your knee) that doesn’t let you go all the way back. So that thing was torn. So if I had gone all the way back again, that’d be it for me."
The incident occurred during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Atlanta. He left the game with a knee injury and many believed, at the time, that he would not return at all that season.
Nevertheless, he played on anyway and even refused to wear a brace that would have helped protect his knee from further harm.
"I don’t know if you’ve seen where people wear a big brace on your knee, like Goran Dragic wears — a big brace. They told me, ‘Giannis, Tim Duncan wore this (so) wear this.’ I said, ‘Heeeell naw.’ They said, ‘Giannis, you need to wear this.’ And they had made one specifically for me. I said, 'Hell. No. I’m not wearing that shit.'"
"I have this mentality like, with my mom and dad, when they were working back home (in Greece), they felt no pain, you know? Like, why? Why would I feel pain, you know? They didn’t feel pain. They didn’t complain. You know, I didn’t see my Dad cry when he was here. I didn’t see him saying, ‘I’m in pain,’ I don’t see my Mom saying ‘I’m in pain’ and stuff like that. Why would I say I’m in pain? That’s how I’m raised. That’s how I’m built. So even though that was the right thing to do — no. The way of my mindset, that wasn’t for me. So OK, things (in the Finals went) well. We won the championship. Great, but now we’ve got to leave it in the past."
Giannis, 27, was born in Greece to Charles and Veronica, who migrated from Lagos, Nigeria.
In 2011, Antetokounmpo began playing with the senior men's team of Filathlitikos in the Greek B Basket League, where he eventually got noticed as an NBA prospect.
Since being drafted in 2013, Giannis has blossomed into one of the NBA's All-Time greats. Despite his relatively young age, the Greek freak is already a 6x All-Star, 5x All-NBA player, 2x MVP, and NBA Champion.
This season, he will look to lead the Bucks to another title and secure his team's status as a modern-day dynasty.