Khris Middleton played a very significant role in the Milwaukee Bucks winning an Eastern Conference championship this year.
When Giannis Antetokounmpo got hurt against the Atlanta Hawks, many thought that would be it for the Bucks. Another failed season, another disappointing finish.
Instead, Middleton stepped up huge – proving he was extremely instrumental to Milwaukee’s successful year.
These days, Antetokounmpo and Middleton appreciate and respect each other as essential to any potential Bucks title run.
But it wasn’t always like this.
In a conversation with Eric Nehm of The Athletic, Antetokounmpo acknowledged that his relationship with Middleton was very different in 2013.
“You cannot imagine how hard we went at each other at practice,” Antetokounmpo said.
“Like, I went home and when my family came, I was showing them the scratches I had on my arms. He used to come down and I’d grab him hard. And he’d push me off. I used to hate him.
“You know: ‘F*ck this motherf*cker. I’m going to take his f*cking minutes.’ I hated playing against him and practicing against him because he was playing hard. And I was playing hard. And we’d always clash at each other.”
Middleton confirmed that Antetokounmpo wasn’t exaggerating.
“We hated each other on the court because we were fighting for minutes,” he said.
“Me and him were kind of in the same position. It was a battle every day in practice. We were making each other better, but we were really trying to get into that rotation and start playing.”
The product of those early hard-fought battles? An extremely thick skin. When Antetokounmpo was getting openly mocked by Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns, he didn’t let it rattle him. When his free-throw shooting became a hot topic of controversy, the Greek star was similarly unfazed.
Well that settles that. https://t.co/s4NxQP2MHr
— Game 7 (@game7__) July 3, 2021
That’s the end result of the toughness ingrained in Antetokounmpo by years of him and Middleton going at each other.
Currently, the Suns are -165 favorites over Milwaukee heading into Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Will the Bucks once again be able to prove the doubters wrong? Time will tell.