He also has a slew of framed jerseys in the basement. Some of the jerseys hang proudly on the wall; others are stacked haphazardly on a pool table or near the bar filled with alcohol that Giannis does not drink. Many are his, but oddly enough, he also has dozens of framed jerseys from other NBA players. Some might be what you expect: the uniforms of greats who have played the game and who have since retired or died. Dominique Wilkins, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant. But a lot of them, the majority of them, are from his peers: guys he faces in the regular season and playoffs.
He has a framed Blake Griffin Pistons jersey. He’s got one from Kevin Durant and one from Steph Curry. James Harden – “A lot of people think I got beef with James Harden, which isn’t true,” he said, because if that was the case, why would his jersey be here? He continued the tour. âThis is from Luka DonÄiÄ, the boy prodigy. Anthony Davis. LA, you know him. JokiÄ. I love the game! Oh, it’s mine from this year. It’s MVP that I won. The All-Star MVP. Bradley Beal. Damien Lillard. Derrick Rose. I love Derrick Rose. LeBron James, man. See! Look what he wrote for me.
Many jerseys are signed, some with brief messages, but this one, a LeBron Lakers jersey, had a longer note, and Giannis read it aloud: âTo Giannis, aka The Greek Freak. Keep striving for greatness every day that you wake up, brother. Love everything you represent in this hoops game, and also off the court. The limit is not the sky. Go beyond. LeBron had signed the sketch for a wreath.
Giannis proudly looked at the inscription: “This is the highlight, you know?”
He is aware, albeit from afar, that by the hypermasculine competition codes of the NBA, you are not supposed to revere your competitors, let alone collect their jerseys, let alone read with adoration what those competitors write about those jerseys with journalists taking notes. But Giannis was never good with these codes, and sometimes he found freedom by defying them. For example, he said, âPeople who talk to sports psychiatrists and stuff like that, they call us ‘soft’. We’ve seen this in the past, like, “Oh, man, I’m anxious.” âDude, you are sweet. Go take care of it. This is how it is labeled. That’s why it’s hard for people to talk to someone and open up. Even for me, it was extremely difficult.
He is convinced that all great athletes secretly go through some form of therapy. Some not so secretly. They use a word or a phrase and he knows it. The other day, Giannis was watching Naomi Osaka, the three-part Netflix docuseries, and was struck by how the tennis star spoke about the challenges of her success. It happens more and more now – in dealing with himself, he has noticed how many other people are dealing with something. He said he could recognize a kind of struggle in Osaka’s eyes, even before she started to speak. âShe wasn’t happy, she wanted to get away from the game and stuff, and it’s fucking hard, man,â Giannis said. He was talking about her, but he was also talking about himself. âI started doing it when I was 18. When you’re so young and doing it, people don’t understand the amount of pressure because at the end of the day you don’t have only to perform and be the best, you got the big brand that you got to wear on your shoulder. You got your own country, Japan, that you got to wear on your shoulder. Or Greece, in my case. You all have those people you have to take care of. Sometimes … “