Giannis Antetokounmpo postgame press conference response on Wednesday should be compulsory watching for every youth, high school, and even college athlete in this nation (or, at the very least, their highly competitive coaches and parents).
When questioned if the 2022-23 Milwaukee season was a “failure” because the Bucks fell from the top seed in the Eastern Conference to a 4-1 first-round loss to the Miami Heat, Antetokounmpo responded with patience and perspective.
“It’s not a failure,” Antetokounmpo explained, “but steps toward success.” There are usually steps involved. Michael Jordan played 15 years and won six titles. What happened to the other nine years? Is that what you’re saying?
“… It’s the wrong question,” he went on to say. “There is no such thing as failure in sports.” There are good days and awful days. You’re successful on certain days. Some days, you aren’t. It’s your turn some days. It’s not always your turn. That is what sports are all about. You don’t always come out on top. Other individuals sometimes win. And this year, someone else will win, plain and simple.”
Again, fantastic stuff from a great player who is also a greater guy by all reports. What sports fan doesn’t like Giannis Antetokounmpo? Every young athlete should pay attention to him and accept his teachings. The rulebook may state that you can win them all, but you won’t. Enjoy the trip and consider the goal a bonus.
Professional Expectations and the Significance of Winning in the NBA Playoffs
Except for… Antetokounmpo isn’t a high school or college player, the Bucks aren’t a local rec team, and the NBA playoffs aren’t a weekend event.
This is a professional athlete pursuing a professional goal.
When a once championship-caliber season burns up in flames in only a couple of games, it is quite reasonable for the organization and the people who fund it and commit their heart to supporting it to expect more than a, “Hey, good try.”
Winning is important. Success is important.
The loss to the Heat did not label Antetokounmpo or his teammates as “failures.” Far from it, they are only prospering by achieving the pinnacle of their sport.
Moreover, the early removal does not imply that there were no strides forward, happy moments, or levels of improvement during the long season. That would be ludicrous to imply. Whatever transpired in the playoffs, Milwaukee gave its fans months of excitement and entertainment.
However, not even getting close to accomplishing the ultimate goal makes this Bucks season at least somewhat of a failure. They award trophies in the end for a purpose. Either you win or you don’t.
While Dale Earnhardt’s famous “second place is just the first-place loser” adage or Nike’s old “you don’t win silver, you lose gold” marketing campaign are too arbitrary to be accepted as universal truths, it doesn’t mean it’s inappropriate to realize that this is more than just a recreational activity.
The Significance of Professional Athletes’ Achievements: Lessons from Jordan and Antetokounmpo
Use Michael Jordan as an example, like Antetokounmpo did. Jordan’s nine non-championship seasons were labeled “failures.” Obviously not. As Giannis Antetokounmpo highlighted, those were steps in the right direction (at least the ones in Chicago, not the two in Washington at the end where he literally simply flew about and played poker).
MJ, on the other hand, considered those non-title teams as failures. Yes, getting through Boston and Detroit was part of the Chicago Bulls’ journey, but it doesn’t mean those losing seasons were dismissed. Jordan’s motto was to not shrug them off. He was crushed by his defeat.
Antetokounmpo is not Michael Jordan. Almost no one has ever been, albeit Kobe, Magic, Bird, Isiah, KG, and countless others have been in the same boat as MJ.
Giannis doesn’t have to comply to some archaic, outdated level of competition. At the age of 28, he has already won two MVPs and will lead Milwaukee to its first NBA title in four decades in 2021. Nobody doubts his determination to win. Things may have turned out differently if he had been totally well during this series.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is Free to Be Himself and Is Encouraged to Do So
However, Bucks supporters have reason to be disappointed. It’s not just the money they put into the squad; it’s also the time. Antetokounmpo’s duty is to play for the club, and he gets fairly rewarded for it.
Fans, on the other hand, have a choice about what they do with their spare time, and when they devote months (or decades) of it following a team only to be profoundly disappointed in the end, it’s reasonable for them and the media to ponder if this was a failure.
The inquiry wasn’t inappropriate, at least not for a professional athlete. It would take place at the conclusion of a youth tournament or a high school season.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks have progressed far beyond that. So thank him for providing the larger backdrop and the life lessons of making too much of a sporting result. You should show it to every young athlete you know.
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