If Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to become the NBA's prime representative, it'll be on his terms.
Now in his sixth season, the Greek superstar has blossomed into one of the most dominant players in basketball, guiding the Milwaukee Bucks to the league's best record at 52-18. His 27.5 points per game are also tied for fourth-best this season with LeBron James.
Antetokounmpo's rapid ascent, combined with the fact James is now well into his mid-30s, has led to suggestions that the 24-year-old will eventually usurp the Los Angeles Lakers star as the undisputed face of the NBA. However, the Greek Freak has some cultural reservations about what that might entail.
"A lot of people say that I can be the face of the league," Antetokounmpo told Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Lately, people have told me ... the closest people, you know, my family, my girlfriend, my mom, my brothers, people say that I cannot be the face of the league because I'm not American, I don't have the American culture in me.
"I sat back and thought about that. Should I have a little bit more American swag, should I come with a suit to the game, should I be more Americanized? But, man, if I can't be the face of the league being me, I don’t want to be the face of the league. That’s pretty much it."
Antetokounmpo was born in Athens to Nigerian parents. Though he announced in February he will play for Greece at this summer's FIBA Basketball World Cup, he told The Undefeated's Marc Spears earlier this month he hopes to eventually travel to Nigeria in order to trace his African roots.
"I want to see where my family comes from, where my mom was raised, see my family, see where my dad was raised," he said. "That is very important. I hope my kids can do the same thing for me.
"Obviously, I am going to have kids that are going to grow up in the U.S., but one day I hope they can go back (to Greece) and visit and see where I grew up, the playground I was playing."