Giannis of the Bucks will play for Greece and try to qualify for the Olympics


Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo will play for the Greek national team this summer – starting with an Olympic qualifying tournament in Greece from July 2 to 7. It was an expected decision, as the 29-year-old has played for Greece when available and often talked about doing so last season.

Greek national team coach Vasilis Spanoulis confirmed to local media in Europe that Antetokounmpo would play.

Antetokounmpo missed the end of the Bucks' regular season and all of their six-game first playoff loss to the Indiana Pacers after straining his left soleus (calf) muscle on April 9. Before that, he first felt pain in his left thigh on March 10, an injury that worsened shortly before the calf strain.

Antetokounmpo did not play for Greece at the 2023 World Cup because he underwent surgery on his left knee.

Greece did not automatically qualify for the Paris Olympics this summer and so must win a tournament of four matches over five days in Piraeus, Greece. Other nations taking part in the tournament include Egypt, Slovenia, Croatia, New Zealand and the Dominican Republic.

Greece will face the Dominican Republic on July 3 and Egypt on July 4. The semifinals will take place on July 6 and the final on July 7.

Slovenia is considered Greece's biggest rival for the only Olympic spot left in the tournament, but star Luka Dončić is currently playing in the NBA Finals with the Dallas Mavericks. It's unclear if he will head overseas immediately, as the Finals, if expanded to seven games, could last until June 23.

Antetokounmpo played 73 games for the Bucks last season – his most since 2017-18 – and became the first player in NBA history to average at least 30 points per game (30.4) while shooting at least 60% (61.1%) from the field.

He admitted after the season that he would evaluate how he prepared his body in the offseason, as he has now missed eight of the Bucks' last 11 playoff games due to injury.

“Maybe I'll follow a different pattern,” he said after the Bucks' season ended. “And maybe I'll try different things. I don't like the word 'rest.' If I can play, I play. If I can't play, I can't play. That's what I always believe in. If I can switch and I'm available, I'll be available. I don't like missing a game in November so I can be available in April, because I still don't know if I'll be available in April. Then April comes and you're not available and you think: Why did I miss all this?

“I'm definitely going to sit down and think about what my summer is going to look like and what next year is going to look like. I'm thinking about it with my physio and the staff and I'm going to try to make the best decision possible so that I'm available. That's something you can't control.”

More: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard remain loyal to Milwaukee and the partnership with the Bucks

Antetokounmpo last played for Greece at EuroBasket 2022, where the team finished fifth. Antetokounmpo averaged 25.1 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.

Greece has not participated in the Olympic Games since 2008, when the country finished fifth in Beijing. It has failed to win a medal in four Olympic tournaments.

Giannis' younger brother Kostas is also on the Greek national team. The former Dominican High School star recently helped Panathinaikos win the EuroLeague championship. Their older brother Thanasis is also on the Greek national team, but suffered a torn Achilles tendon during a post-season practice for the Bucks.

More: Thanasis Antetokounmpo underwent surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, an injury that typically requires a long recovery

Should Giannis lead Greece to the Olympics, it would be part of Group A – one of the strongest groups at the Games. Greece would face gold medal contender Canada on July 27. Greece would also play the winner of the qualifying tournament held in Spain – that should be the Spanish. Spain is currently ranked No. 2 in the world men's national team behind the USA.

Greece will also play against fifth-placed Australia on July 30.