Milwaukee Bucks basketball star Giannis Antetokounmpo’s withdrawal from the Greek national team’s Eurobasket European championships caused a stir between the NBA and the Greek basketball federation over the weekend.
After Giannis Antetokounmpo complained of right knee pain while training with the Greek national team, Milwaukee Bucks trainers recommended he forego the European championships.
“I’m injured, the pains haven’t subsided, and I have to get better,” Antetokounmpo wrote in a Facebook post announcing his absence from EuroBasket later this month. The All-Star point forward issued a sincere apology to fans, calling his decision “the biggest disappointment I’ve ever felt in my career.”
Antetokounmpo had been participating in exhibition games with the Greek national team prior to the injury but the Bucks strength and conditioning coach Suki Hobson evaluated the knee and prohibited him from participating further, according to a statement released by Milwaukee General Manager Jon Horst on Sunday.
The Greek player, known affectionately to his fans as the Greek Freak, currently has a four-year, $100 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks.
The withdrawal from the team prompted the Greek national basketball federation to challenge the version of events in an odd news release, accusing Antetokounmpo, the Bucks and the NBA of a grand conspiracy:
“The simultaneous briefing by the manager of the Milwaukee Buks and by Giannis Antetokounmpo himself via phone and social media from faraway China — and not in the proper formal form — for his inability to play for the Greek national team, brought us sadness due to this great loss, but unfortunately it does not surprise us.
“Since Giannis arrived in Greece and the national team training camp started, a series of indications which were particularly worrying had created the conviction of an organized and well-staged plan by the NBA franchise in which Giannis has signed. Everything was in full knowledge of the NBA, if not encouraged by the NBA, and the athlete was put in a very difficult position. He ultimately was obliged today to announce that he can’t be a member of the national team.”
The general secretary of the Greek basketball federation Takis Tsagronis told state TV ERT that Antetokounmpo’s withdrawal “is bad but not unexpected news. All indications were that it would end up like that. We, on our side, did everything not to give the Bucks an excuse. We took a magnetic scan of Giannis’ leg and it was clean. What the Bucks claim is not the reality; something else is happening.”
Both the Bucks and the NBA denied accusations of “an organized and well-staged plan.”
“The NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks have followed all appropriate protocol under the NBA-FIBA agreement,” NBA senior vice president of basketball communications Tim Frank said in a statement, via the Journal Sentinel. “Giannis has an injury that has been confirmed through multiple examinations and any suggestion to the contrary is false.”