MILWAUKEE – Following the Milwaukee Bucks' 134-123 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Thursday, All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo told ESPN Milwaukee he hopes to work with NBA legend Kobe Bryant this summer.
“When I go to that event, I'm going to try to sneak an opportunity to talk to him,” Antetokounmpo said. “I want to ask him if I can come to L.A. to work with him.”
On Friday night, Antetokounmpo will be a part of a Pigalle basketball tournament at Nike’s “Makers of the Game” event happening throughout All-Star weekend in Los Angeles. Bryant is the event’s headliner and took part in a conversation with ESPN personality Jalen Rose to kick off the festivities on Thursday night.
“I saw an interview that he did. He did an interview recently where he said he is working out players this summer,” Antetokounmpo said. “I think one of the guys he works with in the summer is Kawhi Leonard, probably Jimmy Butler and Paul George.”
In a conversation with The Undefeated’s Jemele Hill last week, Bryant discussed how he has attempted to embrace a mentorship role with a number of current players since he retired following the 2015-16 NBA season. In that conversation, Bryant talks about breaking down video clips for players seeking his expertise and how some of them “come out [to L.A.] during the summer too, and we’ll spend some time in the gym working on things.”
Antetokounmpo, however, wants to get at something even greater than tips on the floor or help with footwork.
“Not to just go out there and workout for two or three weeks, but to grab a dinner and see the way his mind thinks,” Antetokounmpo said. “To see if I'm on the right path.
“It's all about how he thinks. It's about how they think, how the greats think. How they think about the game. I want to see how he thinks about the game, how he sees the game, how he would play today, would he change something about the way he plays. Obviously, he's watched me play, and hopefully he can give me some tips.”
After his final game in Milwaukee on Feb. 22, 2016, Bryant sat down with Antetokounmpo and former Bucks head coach Jason Kidd to discuss the future of the young Bucks star. Bryant gushed about his skills, intelligence, and potential before explaining to Antetokounmpo that becoming a great player is up to him. He also reminded Antetokounmpo of his expectations for the Bucks forward with a Tweet challenging him to win “MVP” over the summer.
Since their chat after that game, though, stories of Antetokounmpo’s insane work ethic have become commonplace. He even mentioned he would hit 1,500 shots a day after Bryant told him he would he hit 1,000 shots a day in the summer. Although he has yet to work with Bryant yet, Antetokounmpo has worked with other basketball legends. Kidd brought in Hall of Fame point guard John Stockton and NBA legend Kevin Garnett to work with Antetokounmpo, the latter making multiple appearances at Bucks practices in the last two years.
“It's the same thing with KG,” Antetokounmpo said of potentially working with Bryant. “When I talk with KG, it's similar. He was telling me stuff last year that I did not get. This year, when I talk to him, I get it. And he told me, ‘See. You get it now. You know what I'm talking about now. You know how your body is going to react.’”
Antetokounmpo’s impact on the floor has grown significantly in recent years as he has transformed from NBA starter to NBA superstar, averaging 27.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game this season. He insists he is not done yet and that Bryant is the key to unlocking whatever comes next.
“If you want to be really good in this league, that's what you've got to do,” Antetokounmpo said. “That's what you've got to do. Pick their mind and try to put something together with your personality and your mindset.
“You just have to keep pushing forward. There are a lot of great players that want to talk, but they're not going to listen. From my standpoint, I feel like I can get a lot better, so that’s why I’m going to try to pick his mind.”