Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year this week, but his most important new title is a different kind of MVP: the NBA’s Most Valuable Protester. Antetokuonmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks went on strike in the NBA’s Orlando playoff bubble after the shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The Bucks strike had an immediate and powerful ripple effect throughout the sports world: the NBA cancelled the other playoff games on its schedule, while teams in the WNBA, Major League Baseball and the MLS soccer league also declined to play.
While the Bucks strike — the team represents the state of Wisconsin as the state’s only NBA franchise — was entered into as a team, Giannis Antetokounmpo is the face of the Milwaukee Bucks and among the most famous faces in the NBA.
Antetokounmpo‘s stature, profile and platform is as large as any player this side of LeBron James, and his actions — along with those of his team — speak heroically and achingly to the significance of this moment and the continually mounting frustration communities of color are experiencing with the pace of social justice change in America.
Most Valuable Protester may turn out to be Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s most important role yet.