Who are the faces of the NBA? LeBron James for sure. Stephen Curry. James Harden. Kevin Durant. Zion Williamson is fast moving up that list even after missing much of his rookie season.
Is Giannis Antetokounmpo on that list? He was second in jersey sales the last year, he’s unquestionably popular, but he’s not front-and-center in marketing campaigns like Chris Paul or LeBron. Antetokounmpo doesn’t push himself that way, he’s not the same social media presence as LeBron or other stars.
Antetokounmpo is a private person with a tight inner circle, and that privacy has been seen as a reason he does not push himself to be the face of the NBA. However, it may be that Antetokounmpo doesn’t feel he’s earned that spotlight yet, ESPN’s well connected Kevin Arnovitz said on the Lowe Post Podcast with Zach Lowe (hat tip Real GM).
“Someone close to him told me… I’m like ‘Yeah, Giannis, it’s his nature to be private. He’s a little more Duncan-y in his approach to superstardom.”
“And they’re like ‘Yeah, that’s not really it.’
“And I said ‘What is it?’
“They’re like ‘He finds it unseemly to preen as the face of the league before you win a championship. Like it would be unconscionable for him to do that because it just is so not in his nature the idea that anybody would preen before they won a title.’
Does that mean if/when Antetokounmpo won a title he would take steps to increase his marketability? I tend to think Arnovitz is right, that the Greek Freak just has a little more Duncan/Kawhi in him.
Antetokounmpo’s privacy is one of the reasons the growing speculation around the league about what is next for him is just that — speculation. There is a sense that if the Bucks got bounced by the Heat in the second round — or do not reach the NBA Finals — it would open the door to him possibly leaving Milwaukee in 2021 as a free agent (maybe heading to Toronto or Miami). Nobody knows for sure. Milwaukee is his home, the only place he and his family have every lived safely, where Antetokounmpo’s partner and son live. But if he feels he can’t win there, all bets are off.
If Antetokounmpo wants to be the face of the NBA, it’s not completely about titles. But that certainly would help.