Giannis Antetokounmpo was surprised to learn he is on the cover of the April 8, 2019 issue of “Sports Illustrated,” when he found out from an unlikely source.
Bucks teammate Khris Middleton broke the news by thanking him, because Middleton is featured in the background of the cover photo.
“I just found out from Khris. … he’s in the background,” Antetokounmpo told reporters Wednesday. “(Khris) walked in and he said, ‘Thank you for putting me on the Sports Illustrated cover.’ … I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘You’re on the cover.’
“I said, ‘OK, good to know, I didn’t know that.’ … He was happy to be in the background. I was like, ‘Yeah, I got you, bro.'”
The SI cover features Antetokounmpo getting ready to posterize a trio of Spurs with a dunk as Middleton looks on in admiration (possibly thinking, “Take cover!)
How the @Bucks turned the Greek Freak into the MVP, by @SI_ChrisBallard https://t.co/sNaOsEyh62 pic.twitter.com/B9kBaW3NMo
— The Crossover (@TheCrossover) April 3, 2019
The cover story, entitled, “Giannis: How to coach a unicorn,” follows first-year Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer’s quest on how to utilize the multi-dimensional Antetokounmpo. Ironically, Budenholzer told Middleton he would have to trim his accustomed role as a shot creator to accommodate Antetokounmpo’s game.
“He told me he wanted me to take on a bit of a lesser role, be a team player and not rely on so many tough shots,” Middleton told SI. “And when a coach tells you that the first time you’re meeting them, I feel like you can’t do nothing but respect that.”
“Instead of B.S.-ing me and telling me everything I want to hear, which a lot of people tend to do, I’d rather hear the straight truth, whether it’s good or bad.”
Whatever they’re doing in Milwaukee, it’s working. The Bucks have an NBA-best 58-20 record. Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.4 points and 12.5 rebound per game and Middleton (18.1 ppg) made his first All-Star game this year.