Greece progressed to the second round of the FIBA World Cup and will play the USA in a mouthwatering clash on Saturday in China.
The reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will play for the first time against the US on a major international stage in what is essentially a must-win game for the Greeks in their quest to reach next week’s quarterfinals.
Giannis Antetokounmpo took over for Greece in the win over New Zealand which led to the second round of the FIBA World Cup.
In the 30 minutes he spent on the court in the knockout match vs. the “Tall Blacks”, Antetokounmpo scored 24 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and send six assists to his teammates.
Antetokounmpo’ Milwaukee Bucks teammate Brook Lopez has no doubt that the “Greek Freak” will “go for the kill”: “He’s going to come out to kill us, there’s no question. He’s going to want to tear our heads off. I wouldn’t expect anything otherwise,” he says.
US Coach Gregg Popovich also had praise, and not only for Antetokounmpo: “I think that our opinion has been all along that all these players from overseas that play in the NBA are obviously good players or they wouldn’t be there. Giannis is pretty special as far as good players are concerned. But when they play for their countries, we like to say that they become superheroes.”
There is no mystery about what this event means to Antetokounmpo.
“To represent my country, it’s an unbelievable feeling,” Antetokounmpo said. “You really cannot explain it. But one thing I’ll say is when you play for the national team, you don’t only play for yourself. You represent every single Greek person.”
The basketball phenom had said in the weeks leading up to the tournament that he would trade the MVP award for the World Cup crown.
If only it were that easy. Greece will face a US team which is coming off a 53-point romp against Japan to finish the first-round play.