Having made just 4-of-15 free throw attempts in an eight-point loss in Philadelphia on Friday night, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo came back out onto the Wells Fargo Center court after the game, hoping to make 10 shots in a row from the foul line before calling it a night.
However, as detailed in reports from Tim Bontemps of ESPN, Joe Vardon of The Athletic, and Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, after Antetokounmpo had made seven consecutive free throws, Sixers big man Montrezl Harrell came and took the ball away on Giannis’ eighth attempt. Harrell and Sixers player development coach Jason Love refused to give the ball back to Antetokounmpo, who wanted to finish his shooting routine and reportedly told Harrell that there was room for both players to shoot.
“This isn’t f—ing Milwaukee,” Harrell shouted at Antetokounmpo, according to The Athletic. “Get that s–t out of there.”
Unable to get the ball back from Harrell and Love, Antetokounmpo left the court and returned with two new balls to continue shooting free throws. By that point, however, Sixers arena workers had positioned a large ladder in front of the basket Giannis had been using. When the staffers refused to move the ladder out of the way, Antetokounmpo tried to shove it aside and ended up knocking it over, as captured in a Twitter video.
Antetokounmpo ultimately did finish his foul shooting while Harrell worked out at the other end of the court and continued to shout at him. Once Giannis left the court for good, his brother Thanasis Antetokounmpo came out and spoke to Harrell, according to Vardon, who says Harrell told Thanasis, “I’ll beat your a–“ and “You better send that s–t back to the locker room.”
Harrell, believed to be upset that Giannis was preventing him from doing his own on-court postgame work on the 76ers’ home court, left without speaking to reporters. Giannis – described by both Vardon and Owczarski as “agitated” – discussed the incident at length.
“Obviously I had a very bad night from the free throw line,” Antetokounmpo said, per Owczarksi. “Now, I take pride in getting better every single day. After the game I decided to go try and make some free throws. My goal, every time I step on the line is to make 10 in a row and I was shooting free throws. I was at seven, I think. A player, I don’t want to mention names, and a coach, basically told me to leave the court, while behind me there was another space to do their routine.
“I respect every player. I know some players don’t play now, they want to get some extra work, want to work on their skills and stuff, and I said, obviously we can shoot together. They told me no, this is their court, I should leave. I was like, ‘I have three more free throws, I was at seven, I want to try to make 10 in a row.’ I shot my eighth one. Came and took the ball away from me and I was very surprised. I feel like it’s very unprofessional. I would never take the ball away from a professional athlete when he’s trying to do his job.”
Harrell did post a tweet late on Friday night, briefly explaining his side of the interaction: “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!”
As for the video that showed him pushing down the ladder that arena staffers had put in front of the basket, Giannis said he wasn’t trying to disrespect anyone.
“Did I meant to push the ladder all the way down? I totally did not. I think I pushed it and it got caught and fell,” Antetokounmpo said. “But people are going to make it look the way they want it to look. I know what happened.
“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 from 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. And if they didn’t, they don’t really care about their game.”
It’s unclear at this point whether or not any of the players involved in the postgame incident will be fined by the NBA.