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The Fellas Got In A Big Fight Over A Ball

10:21 AM EST on December 14, 2023

Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks exchanges words with Tyrese Haliburton #0 of the Indiana Pacers following a game at Fiserv Forum on December 13, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Giannis Antetokounmpo set a Milwaukee Bucks franchise record by scoring 64 points against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, and nobody gives a shit! That's because immediately after the game ended, a bunch of grown men engaged in a long and heated disagreement about who should take home the game ball.

As soon as the buzzer sounded, there was a brief meeting between Antetokounmpo and some Pacers staff and players near the Pacers' bench. As Antetokounmpo approached the area, seeking to get his mitts on the historic game ball, a Pacers assistant coach slinked away from the court with a ball in his hands, taking it with him to the visiting locker room. Antetokounmpo then went sprinting after the sneaky little assistant, pursuing him down the tunnel. He was joined by a few teammates, and they were met by a scrum of Pacers players, security staff, and other personnel. There was some shouting and shoving—someone apparently elbowed the Pacers' GM in the ribs!—at which point Antetokounmpo went loping back onto the court to scream at Tyrese Haliburton and Pacers assistant Lloyd Pierce, who at that point were having a fairly civil conversation with Damian Lillard and Khris Middleton. The man wanted his ball, and he wanted it bad.

All funny and mildly embarrassing, right? Well, things got even funnier and less mildly embarrassing once everyone had gotten a chance to cool off and talk to reporters about what happened. Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle called the postgame kerfuffle "unfortunate," and then, with a straight face, claimed that the Pacers had made off with the game ball because they wanted to give it to rookie center Oscar Tshiebwe, who had scored his first official NBA point in Wednesday's game. At this point, dedicated Oscar Tshiebwe fans, of which there are many, are reading this post and thinking, Hey! Didn't our boy Oscar score one point in one minute of action against the Lakers during the NBA Cup final? That is correct. He did do that. The NBA Cup final was not, however, an official NBA game, and so that point didn't count as his first point in the league. Clearly this man needed a game ball to commemorate his first point in a game that actually counted, but in a different way from another game that also counted.

Antetokounmpo was informed of Carlisle's explanation once he sat down for his postgame press conference, and then totally whiffed his opportunity to escape the whole mess with more dignity than his adversaries. Rather than just call bullshit on Carlisle's clearly bullshit reason for absconding with the ball, Antetokounmpo offered his own bullshit reason for wanting it so badly. He sat up there in front of everyone and claimed that he was actually trying to retrieve the ball for Lillard, who had during the game scored his 2,451st three-pointer. I know that I don't need to tell you that three-pointer number 2,451 moved Lillard past Kyle Korver into the fifth spot on the NBA's all-time three-pointers made list. As Antetokounmpo explained, that's obviously why he was in such hot pursuit of the ball:

"I understand. When you score your first point in the NBA, you want to have the ball or whatever the case may be," Antetokounmpo said of the Pacers honoring Tshiebwe's feat. "But at the end of the day, you're talking about the guy that just skipped Kyle Korver in the all-time list. In my opinion, we should all stop what we're doing and appreciate greatness."

ESPN

OK, so, did Antetokounmpo get the ball or what? According to him, he did end the night with a ball, but he remains suspicious as to whether it is the ball.

"I have no idea. I'm not going to lie," he said. "I really don't know. I have a ball, but I don't know if it's the game ball. It doesn't feel like the game ball to me. It feels like a brand-new ball. I can tell. I played, what, 35 minutes today. I know how the game ball felt. The ball that I have, which I'll take and I'll give it to my mom, for sure—but I don't know if it's actually the game ball."

ESPN

I have a solution: the NBA should order up a dozen or so commemorative balls with the date and score of last night's game emblazoned on them, so that everyone involved in this extremely funny circumstance can have one. In my opinion, we should all stop what we're doing and appreciate greatness.

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