Giannis Antetokonmpo will play Olympic qualifiers. GETTY IMAGES

The Greek national team’s coach Vassilis Spanoulis confirmed that the NBA superstar, who missed the Playoffs due to injury, will take part in the upcoming FIBA Olympic qualifying basketball tournament in Piraeus.

“Giannis will be present with the national team in the Olympic Games Qualifiers,” Spanoulis said on Saturday, during the postgame press conference after his club Peristeri, played a best-of-three series against Olympiakos.

There was some concern whether Antetokounmpo would compete in the pre-Olympic international tournament, which Greece will host, after the multi-talented Milwaukee Bucks forward missed significant time in the NBA regular season and Playoffs for the second year in a row with an injury. Spanoulis’ announcement is for sure cause for celebration among the passionate Greek supporters, although Bucks fans should probably feel more worried than ecstatic.

Greece has not yet qualified for the upcoming Paris 2024 Games and would need to win the six-team pre-Olympic qualifying tournament that it is hosting from 2 July to 7 July in order to seal the deal. And there is o doubt whatsoever that Antetokounmpo, despite his recent physical concerns, remains the national team’s best offensive and defensive weapon, not to mention its biggest draw.

The ‘Greek Freak’ debuted at the U20 level with Greece in 2013, then played in the 1024 and 2019 the FIBA World Cups, the 2015 and 2022 editions of EuroBasket, and the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Turin. He is a global icon, after being selected by the Bucks in the 2013 NBA Draft with number 15 overall and leading Milwaukee to a championship eight seasons later.

The 29-year-old suffered a left soleus strain during this year’s regular season against the current finalists Boston Celtics on 9 April, which forced him to miss the Bucks’ first-round series against the Indiana Pacers and precipitated Milwaukee’s elimination.

“The day of Game 4 in Indiana, that was the first time I was able to jog on my body weight since April 9,” Antetokounmpo told reporters on 3 May, following the Bucks’ loss to the Pacers. “So, I think I tried my best to come back to help my teammates. It’s kind of hard to see them being out there and not being able to help them. But I just couldn’t. I did all the tests I had to do, like these protocols you have to follow and have to check the boxes, and I wasn’t even close (to) checking the boxes.”

The season has been disappointing for Bucks fans, as the team has failed to reach the finals now for three consecutive years, after the Greek superstar crowned the franchise in 2021. Milwaukee traded point guard Jrue Holiday last offseason and went all-in on veteran guard Damien Lillard, yet never found a groove and saw its chances fizzle when Antetokounmpo went down with his injury.

“I was trying to push myself and push myself and push myself to get to a place where maybe I can’t check the boxes, but maybe I can even go out there and help, but in our opinion, it was not safe for me to be out there because I couldn’t run full speed. I could run only 30, 40 percent. Even now, I can’t run full speed. Probably going to take a few days, weeks, whatever months I don’t know how long it’ll take until I get back to whatever I need to get back to,” Antetokounmpo recalled after the series against Indiana.

For the Olympic Qualifiers, Greece is set to play the Dominican Republic on 3 July and Egypt on 4 July in the Peace and Friendship Stadium. In case of making it to the next stage, Antetokounmpo’s squad would face a single-elimination game against Croatia, Slovenia, or New Zealand in the semi-finals. The Greeks could then seal their Olympic ticket in the final.