Giannis Antetokounmpo discusses NBA MVP race against LeBron James

Giannis Antetokounmpo insists his main focus is on improving his game and lifting the NBA title with Milwaukee Bucks, rather than winning more individual honors.

The 25-year-old was named the league’s Most Valuable Player last season, becoming the first Bucks player to win the accolade since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1974. And he looks poised to make it back-to-back MVP triumphs thanks to some incredible displays before the NBA season was suspended by the coronavirus pandemic in March.

The voting for the MVP and other individual regular-season awards is over ahead of the July 30 restart, with “seeding games” not being included to ensure a fair process.

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Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James made his claim for a fifth MVP Trophy by declaring he knows what he is capable of, but biggest challenger Antetokounmpo is not focused on the award.

“I know there’s going to be a lot talk about the MVP award. That’s not my main focus,” he told reporters Tuesday when asked about James’ comments. “I’ve got to get better, win games, help my team play good basketball, try to win the big trophy – the last time we did that was 1971.”

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Antetokounmpo was averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game when the NBA was suspended amid the COVID-19 crisis. And the reigning MVP admits he has been working on his game during the lockdown, having previously stunned fans by claiming he did not own a basketball hoop at his home.

“Anybody out there that thought I didn’t have access to a gym, they don’t really know me,” he said. “I just said that trying to get a little ahead of the competition.”

The Bucks are in action against the Spurs on Thursday — their first action in four months — and Antetokounmpo is in line to feature after recovering from a knee injury.

“What I want to do is basically just try to get in shape and get in basketball shape,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how long I play. If I play 10 minutes, 15 minutes, the whole game, I’m just gonna go as hard as I can because eventually when the season starts again and the play-offs start, that’s what I got to do. So you know, as long as I’m on the court, I’m just going to go as hard as I can.”