In Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer’s mind, the pick for NBA MVP is an easy choice: Giannis Antetokounmpo.
When the league told teams on Friday that the races for MVP and other regular-season individual awards are over — ahead of the NBA restart in Orlando, Florida — the decision came as news to Budenholzer.
“I had no idea that that was the case, but it makes sense. I think it was 64, 65, 66 games for different teams, so that’s certainly a significant body of work, and more importantly, certainly, Giannis, in our minds, has done more than enough to deserve a back-to-back MVP,” Budenholzer said. “What he does for us on both ends of the court, what he does every night, the way he sets the bar for us, culture-wise, work ethic-wise, just as a teammate. He’s an incredible teammate, plays unselfishly, does everything. And I think that’s kind of what the MVP is, so we certainly feel like he’s very deserving, and we’ll be excited to support him.”
If Antetokounmpo, 25, wins the award, he would join LeBron James (25 years old in 2009-10) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (24 years old in 1971-72) as the only players to win multiple NBA MVPs at age 25 or younger, per ESPN Stats & Information research. The Greek-born Antetokounmpo would join Tim Duncan (two) and Steve Nash (two) as the third player born outside the U.S. to win multiple MVPs.
Antetokounmpo is also looking to join Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players to win Defensive Player of the Year and MVP in the same season.
At the time of the shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, Caesars Sportsbook had Antetokounmpo’s odds as -800 to win MVP, ahead of James (+500).
On Thursday, Antetokounmpo announced the official release of his second signature sneaker, the Nike Zoom Freak 2, with special access to Nike members via Zoom. He named Kevin Durant, Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen and Kevin Garnett as his favorite players growing up.
“I want to be one of the best players to ever play the game,” Antetokounmpo told reporters during media availability on July 1. “I did the best job I could do trying to stay ready and trying to have my team ready for this journey that we’re about to go on to leave and play games. But as I said, whoever wants it more, whoever is mentally prepared for all this, what’s going on in Orlando, that’s the team that’s gonna come out on top.”