Superstars’ bitter MVP feud rocks NBA

A simple joke that may or may not have hit too close to home has escalated the feud between Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden to new levels.

Reigning NBA Antetokounmpo was one of the All Star captains and refused to pick Harden, instead saying he was stuck between picking Kemba Walker and Trae Young.

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Harden is easily the most prolific scorer in the NBA, with 34.9 points per game, Young is with 29.8 points and Walker is back in 21st with 21.8 points.

When he was tossing it up, NBA legend Charles Barkley asked “You don’t want The Dribbler?”, referring to Harden, to which Antetokounmpo answered “I want somebody that’s going to pass the ball, that’s what I want.”

Antetokounmpo went with Walker, while the other captain, LeBron James, picked Harden.

While Antetokounmpo was heavily criticised for his calls, it the brutal sledge burnt Harden.

The Houston Rockets star was somewhat salty when asked about the “stereotypes” around his game in an interview with Rachel Nicholls.

“I average more assists than (Walker), I think,” Harden said. “I don’t see what the joke is. But I didn’t even see it. I don’t pay attention to stuff like that. I just know none of them can mess with me.”

For the record, Harden ranks ninth in the NBA for assists with 7.3 per game, while Walker is back in 37th with 5.0 per game.

Harden then gave a not so subtle dig directed squarely at Antetokounmpo.

“I wish I could just run, with seven feet, run and just dunk,” Harden continued. “Like that takes no skill at all. I’ve got to actually learn how to play basketball and how to have skill, you know? I’ll take that any day.”

Harden has aggressively gone after Giannis.Source:AP

Antetokounmpo tried to hose down the feud but it appears the cat is already out of the bag and the NBA will be looking on with interest at the next meeting between the Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks on March 25.

“It hasn’t been a back and forth,” he said. “I’m not that type of guy, never try to take stabs at somebody. Maybe sometimes it might come out like that, but I’m definitely not.

“I’m just trying to do my job, which is win games and go back home to my family and my kid. At the end of the day, if that’s what he believes, that’s what he believes.”

"There's not back and forth. … At the end of the day, if that's what [James Harden] believes, that's what he believes."

—Giannis Antetokounmpo on James Harden's comments about him


While the latest in the feud might be enough to convince most people, it’s not the only time the pair have been involved in a scrap.

In a game in January 2019, Giannis beamed Harden right in the face with a bullet pass as the clearly dazed Rockets star needed to sit down.

This angle of Giannis beaming Harden right in the face with the pass ?? (Via @jessec1ark)

Then, came the MVP vote. The 2017-18 MVP Harden felt like he was on track for a repeat performance until Antetokounmpo took out the award.

Giannis was widely praised for his speech and he paid tribute to his teammates and NBA rivals.

Then again, it does help to be seven foot to dunk.Source:AP

But when he spoke about his family, the “Greek Freak” couldn’t hold back the emotion.

The tears began to flow as soon as he began to talk about the impact his father Charles Antetokounmpo had on his career.

Antetekounmpo Sr died in 2017 from a heart attack at just 53-years of age.

Tears rolled down his cheeks as said it was his father’s memory that pushed him to such incredible heights this season.

“I want to thank my dad. Obviously my dad is not here with me,” Giannis said before choking up and needing to take a moment to compose himself.

“Two years ago I had the goal in my head that I was going to be the best player in the league. I’m going to do whatever it takes to help my team to win and we’re going to win everything.

“Every day that I step onto the floor, I always think about my dad and that motivates me, that pushes me to play harder. Even though when my body is sore, even when I don’t feel like playing, I am always going to show up and I’m always going to do the right thing.

“I want to thank my amazing brothers. I love you guys. I love you guys. You guys are my role models, man. I look up to you guys. Thankyou for everything that you guys do for me. “And I want to thank my amazing mum.”

He went on to describe her as “the foundation of this family” and “my true hero”.

Giannis accepts the NBA MVP trophy.Source:Getty Images

In Houston, the mood wasn’t quite so festive.

In two since deleted tweets, the Rockets went rouge and were slammed for their comments.

“Congrats to the new MVP, but we respectfully disagree,” the Rockets tweeted.

The franchise then rattled off a series of statistics including finishing top two in MVP voting four out of the last five seasons, the first player to average at least 35.0 points and 7.0 assists in a single season in NBA history and scoring 28 40+ games, nine 50+ games and 60+ twice.

Harden himself then said the media had essentially ordained Antetokounmpo win the MVP.

“I think once the media, they create a narrative about somebody from the beginning of the year, I think they just take that narrative and run with it the entire year,” Harden said. “I don’t want to get into details. But all I can do is control what I can do, and I went out there and did what I was supposed to do at a high level. You know what I’m saying?”

He added to his slam in September saying: “A 32-game 30-point streak, eight 50-point games, two 60-point games … and all the talk was about [Giannis]? There’s no way.

“You can’t pout or be mad, and the kid had an unbelievable season, so did his team. But the things I was putting up were legendary. You going to look back in 10, 15 years from now and be like, is that really true? Did that really happen?”

Harden is on fire yet again this season.Source:AP

Antetokounmpo then went the high road, but couldn’t stop himself from a little dig at Harden.

“That’s their opinion. They’re gonna have James’ back,” the 25-year-old Antetokounmpo said. “I’m never gonna say I’m better than James. (But) the trophy’s in my house.”

Whether or not they want to be in a feud, it doesn’t look like this is about to end.

Bring on March 25.

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