Giannis Antetokounmpo says this season’s NBA championship will be the “toughest” ever title to win due to the interruptions and obstacles created by the coronavirus pandemic.
The 2019-20 season is set to resume at Disney World in Orlando, Florida on July 30, but some onlookers have argued this season’s winners will have an ‘asterisk’ by their name due to the circumstances.
The possibility of players being forced to miss matches in the event they catch the virus is a potential issue, while some, including Indiana Pacers two-time All Star guard Victor Oladipo, have suggested the chance of a regular basketball injury could be heightened by the speed of the resumption.
Antetokounmpo had led the Milwaukee Bucks to the top of the Eastern Conference standings when the season was suspended in March, with the 25-year-old Greek appearing to be on course for a second successive regular season MVP award.
“At the end of the day I’ve heard a lot of people say that this is going to be how you guys say the star next to this championship,” Antetokounmpo said.
“I feel like at the end of the day this is going to be the toughest championship you could ever win. Because the circumstances are really, really tough right now. So whoever wants it more is going to be able to go out there and take it.”
NBA players are set to enter a ‘bubble’ in Orlando, where they will have to follow strict safety protocols, including social distancing measures [off the court] and regular tests for the coronavirus.
Antetokounmpo believes the off-court challenges will be hugely significant, and that the team who mentally handles the situation best may gain an advantage.
“Obviously you go somewhere without your family for four months, three months and you haven’t played basketball for three and a half, four months,” the four-time All Star said. “Obviously whoever team wants it more has got to be mentally prepared for all this situation and got to go out there and execute.
“And whoever plays the best because at the end of the day teams got to be in shape. So whoever is in the best shape and took care of themselves for this three and a half months, four months that we wasn’t able to play is going to be in a better position than other teams.
“So I want to be one of the best players to ever play the game. I did the best job I could do and tried to stay ready and try to have my team ready for this new journey that we are about to go and leave and play games. But as I said, whoever wants more, whoever is mentally prepared for this what’s going to go on in Orlando that’s the team that is going to come on top.”