A bizarre scene played out post-game after the Philadelphia 76ers earned a thrilling 110-102 home victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night. The Sixers were playing without injured stars James Harden and Tobias Harris, and lost starting guard Tyrese Maxey to injury after halftime, but rode another brilliant performance from Joel Embiid to the win.
The Bucks had plenty of chances to pull ahead late, but they were done in partially by poor free throw shooting from Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished 4-for-15 from the foul line. The drama started after the game when Antetokounmpo came out of the Bucks’ locker room to get some extra free throw practice on Philadelphia’s floor. The Athletic has details of what went down.
As Antetokounmpo was practicing his free throws, Sixers forward Montrezl Harrell started barking at Giannis and took his basketball. Sixers assistant Jason Love reportedly told Giannis he couldn’t shoot free throws on Philly’s court. So Antetokounmpo went into the Bucks’ locker room and returned with two more basketballs.
When Giannis came back, Sixers arena workers had set up a ladder under the basket and started to remove cameras from the top of the hoop. Giannis moved the ladder out of the way to keep shooting his free throws. When the arena workers moved the ladder back moments later, Giannis angrily shoved it over. The entire thing was captured on video.
The scene with Harrell was also captured on video, too. Giannis looked confused as to why Harrell stole his basketball and wouldn’t give it back.
“Yeah, I took the ball, get the f— outta here,” Harrell said, according to The Athletic. Giannis responded with “I’m doing my f—— job.” Watch it play out here:
Giannis eventually went back to the locker room, and his brother Thanasis, a reserve forward on the Bucks, came out and talked to Harrell. The two players got into a verbal altercation, with Harrell reportedly says “I’ll beat your a–” before Thanasis walked away.
Giannis spoke about the situation after the game. Via ESPN:
“I don’t know if I should apologize because I don’t feel like I did anything wrong, except the ladder just fell. I feel like it’s my right for me to work on my skills after a horrible night at the free throw line. I think anybody in my position that had a night like me would go out and work on his free throws.
“I never try to disrespect anyone, in any way shape or form,” Antetokounmpo said, an hour after the incident. “I feel like today was just unfortunate event that took place. I think people did not respect the fact that sometimes players want to get some extra work in. I think it’s unprofessional to kick somebody off the court or take the ball or whatever the case might be. Or put the ladder in front of somebody while he’s trying to do his job. We get paid to do this. They didn’t just pick us. We get paid.”
Antetokounmpo said: “You can go and ask (Harrell). I offered him to shoot, let’s shoot together.” He continued talking about the incident, via The Athletic:
“Meanwhile, I don’t understand this because there’s a basket right behind me. There was another basket behind me. And, he chose to come to take my ball, have his coach get in front of me, and kind of bully me away from the court and go to the other basket.
“I’m not going to try to fight somebody. I have kids now, I gotta save my money. But now, if you guys see that as disrespect, that’s on you.”
Harrell sent out this tweet after the game:
Aye make sure you get the complete story I ask the man can he get off the court so I can workout they had to change the court over he ignore me so hey that’s what you get! Respect is respect! GOODNIGHT!— Montrezl Harrell (@MONSTATREZZ) November 19, 2022
According to Reddit, the Sixers were holding a post-game event for season ticket holders, which is apparently why there were videos of the incident.
Is it uncommon for opposing players to practice shooting in an opposing arena after the game? Sort of, but it does happen at times. Twitter immediately dug up this video of Embiid shooting in the Pelicans’ arena after a rough night, and no one came to interrupt him.
Joel Embiid gets up shots after shooting 5-16 from the field in a loss to the Pelicans. pic.twitter.com/ysCEwf0MBB— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) April 10, 2021
Antetokounmpo has a reputation of being the NBA’s most wholesome superstar. He tells dad jokes and loves Oreos and tweets about smoothies. He has never really had an off-court controversy before.
Is Giannis in the wrong in this instance? I think so, kind of. The arena workers are trying to do their jobs and Giannis emotionally shoved the ladder over after a bad game. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but he should probably chill out.
Ultimately, this incident will serve as more fuel for both the Antetokounmpo vs. Embiid rivalry and the Bucks and Sixers fight for Eastern Conference supremacy. We need a Bucks vs. Sixers playoff series so badly. It would be so fun to watch two of the top-five players in the world going at it with huge stakes.