In a lot of sports, we sometimes see athletes get physical on the court with one another outside of play. Tensions can run high in competitive sports games, and basketball is no different. While basketball generally doesn't have athletes roughing each other up very often, there are instances where it does happen.
One of those times was during a regular-season game between the Washington Wizards and the Milwaukee Bucks in the Orlando bubble in 2020. The play featured former MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo headbutting Moe Wagner, who is currently a forward for the Orlando Magic.
That play got Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected from the game, and he was rightfully suspended for the Bucks' final game of the regular season. On a recent episode of The Long Shot podcast with Duncan Robinson, Wagner shared his perspective on that moment that went viral. Wagner explained that there were some things that preceded the headbutt, with him highlighting a particular charge call.
Yeah, he just flat out headbutted me... It starts early, and I think this is where Giannis gets pissed. There's a boxout before that play, and Giannis has very long legs. I don't blindside him on purpose, but I box him out hands high, on the weak side, push him underneath the basket... I'm doing my job, and I hit him a little, unlucky, not on purpose... and he falls awkwardly.
Obviously when the MVP falls, people get like "oh s*it." I'm like, it's a mix between like "Ok, he just fell because I boxed him out" and also like being suprised "why the f*ck did he just fall that easily?" I look back and I'm like "look at him", I don't say anything. I think he took it as "Sit down" type s*it.
Got up, Budenholzer was calling a play. I'm watching Giannis the entire time. Budenholzer's calling a play, and Giannis is like "F*ck that. Give me the ball. Give me the ball" Takes the ball and just dribbles downhill with this look in his eyes like he's trying to f*cking kill me. I literally just fell, and hoped that the ref would call a foul. And the ref called a foul on my side. I'm not sure if it was a charge or not.
I knew he was pissed, so I don't wanna be the first guy to do something...I walk out ,and then somebody calls a time out, and we cross paths again. I could tell that he was trying to talk or do anything... We literally crossed paths, and I looked away and I would have never expected him to headbutt me.
I was ready to be pushed, do the "hold me back" thing and maybe get him a technical... but I would have never expected him to headbutt me. That s*it hurt. I was like "what the hell just happened?"... just a weird situation.
Now the consequence out of that situation is that "I have beef with Giannis." Which is not true. I love watching that dude play, I was happy for him. That's a narrative I don't like... That's the only thing I'm a little scared of, that people won't like me anymore.
There is no question that these incidents don't happen frequently in the NBA, and it's certainly interesting to hear Wagner give us an inside look into the viral moment. While obviously, it wasn't an acceptable action from Giannis Antetokounmpo, it seems as though it was a spur of the moment thing, and Antetokounmpo is known for his sportsmanship in general. It remains to be seen if Giannis Antetokounmpo will offer a response to this, but from Wagner's perspective, it just seems as though it was a one-time situation in a heated game.