In an interview with The Athletic's Sam Amick, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks said that he's "desperate" to win another championship and blessed to be in the Most Valuable Player conversation again. He also described himself as "the most competitive guy who ever lived" and said he's not clear about the criteria for MVP.
"The thing that I don't get about the MVP criteria is it changes," Antetokounmpo told The Athletic.
He continued: "So what is the MVP? Is it the guy who scores the most points? Is it the guy who's the most efficient? Is it the guy who is the most dominant? Is it the guy who is the most valuable? Sometimes, the best player isn't the most valuable player on the team. Like, I feel like (Bucks center) Brook (Lopez) is such a valuable player for our team. Like (the MVP criteria) just f---ing -- sorry for my language -- it just changes. As I said again, I can't control that. I can control only how I prepare for the game and try to be ready for the game."
Antetokounmpo won the MVP award in 2019 and 2020, then finished fourth in voting in 2021 and third in 2022. He is in the mix again now; with about three-and-a-half weeks left in the regular season, it's effectively a three-man race between Antetokounmpo, the Denver Nuggets' Nikola Jokic and the Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid.
Since Antetokounmpo did not elaborate further about his issue with the award, we don't know what he thinks the criteria should be. He is far from the first, however, to gripe about the NBA's stance on the matter. The league has always left it up to individual voters to determine what "most valuable" means to them.
Antetokounmpo said that he's "a guy that stays in my lane and talks about things that I can control. I can't control the MVP." He said he will discuss it privately, with "the people I really are about," but will not make his case for the award, even if he would like to win it:
But my opinion does not matter, you know? And I don't want to be that guy who says something to influence people. I try to control what I can control, and (being in) a conversation of being again -- for the fifth year -- for the Most Valuable Player, man, it's a blessing in the sky for me. Would I want to win it, (with) my competitive side? I'm the most competitive guy who ever lived. I'm obsessed with basketball. It's like asking me if I really want to play basketball. Of course I want to be one of the best. Of course I want to compete for the championship. Of course I want people to value me and what I bring to the table. But at the end of the day, the way I view it, the best player is -- and I've said this since training camp, over and over again -- the best player is the player that makes his team great, you know? And I just want to keep on making my team great, and hopefully more blessings come along my way.
Antetokounmpo said that his two MVP trophies and his Finals MVP trophy are next to each other in his office, but he wants "to create more art" rather than focusing on the past. The interview took place on Saturday, after Stephen Curry led the Golden State Warriors to a 125-116 win over the Bucks in overtime with Antetokounmpo sidelined. Antetokounmpo said that Curry had "created art" that day and he feels that he needs to be "f---ing desperate" to compete with the likes of Curry and Kevin Durant:
I feel like sometimes looking at (accomplishments from the past) stops you from going out there and chasing and being desperate. Why I'm here is because I'm desperate. I'm not as talented as Steph. I'm not as talented as KD. I'm f---ing desperate. I'm obsessed. I'm scared to lose what God has gave me and the life that I've provided for my kids and my brothers and for my mom, you know? I'm scared. So I f---ing work as hard as I can, because I don't want to lose this s---. And it's not gonna stop until I'm out of this league. So I do have the trophies somewhere. But I try not to look at them, because I want to win another one. I do want to. But I don't want to go and say it. I don't want to beg. I want my game to speak for itself.
In 54 games this season, Antetokounmpo has averaged a career-high 31.5 points, plus 11.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists in 32.6 minutes. His usage rate (37.8%) leads the entire league, and his true shooting percentage (60%) has only taken a moderate dip. The Bucks have the best record and best defense in the league, and they've won 21 of the last 22 games in which Antetokounmpo has played.
In other words, his game is speaking loudly. In an average season, he'd be shoo-in for the MVP award. This year, however, the competition is stiff, regardless of what criteria you're using.