Giannis Antetokounmpo is a two-time MVP, a former NBA Defensive Player of the Year, a reigning NBA champion, and the most recent NBA Finals MVP.
It’s hard to see him looking up to any current player, much less one that doesn’t have a fraction of his accolades.
And yet that’s precisely the case with him and Washington Wizards guard Russell Westbrook.
Yes, that Russell Westbrook.
In an exclusive excerpt from ‘Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA MVP’ provided to the Ringer by author Mirin Fader, she details the level of respect Antetokounmpo had for the way Westbrook carried himself.
“‘He had to practice it because he’s not that guy,’ said Skip Robinson, the then Bucks vice president of community relations and player development. ‘He’s a lovable guy. A nice gentleman.’
“Giannis didn’t want to be seen as a nice gentleman on the court; he wanted to be seen as someone who would tear your heart out. He tried to pattern his scowl after Russell Westbrook’s scowl. Giannis loved Westbrook: his demeanor, his speed, but especially his scowl. Giannis came into practice once, scowling and grunting. ‘This is my new thing,’ Giannis told his teammates.”
The Bucks owner’s daughter decided to bring 2021 in with a bang by stripping all her clothes off. https://t.co/UgzhEEna4o
— Game 7 (@game7__) January 7, 2021
Antetokounmpo’s unexpected respect for Westbrook is reminiscent of the time Kawhi Leonard, while at the top of the world, revealed the surprising NBA star who used to be his favorite player.
Based on the Bucks being fresh off winning their first title in three decades, it’s hard to argue with Antetokounmpo’s approach. Clearly whatever it was that he loved about Westbrook and tried to adopt worked.