PHILADELPHIA – Stolen basketballs. Falling Ladders. Small refusals and threats of violence.
That was the scene that dominated Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center, which played out after the 76ers defeated the Bucks 110-102.
Milwaukee superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo tried to come up with extra foul shots after a terrible play he had at the line. Sixers backup center Montrezl Harrell and a member of the coaching staff Jason Love returned to the court, and Harrell took the ball from Giannis and refused to return it.
Harrell stood in the corner, shook his head and held the ball while Antetokounmpo begged him.
“That’s not f—— Milwaukee,” Harrell barked at Antetokounmpo, as witnessed by the athlete. “Get that s— out of there.”
Video of Montrezl Harrell taking the ball away while Giannis Antetokounmpo shoots free throws after the game:
🎥 Mahktar Ndiaye & @joevardon pic.twitter.com/6jACYFTee4
— The Athlete (@TheAthletic) November 19, 2022
As if a bencher taking the ball off a two-time MVP after a game and yelling at him wasn’t weird enough, things got even more bizarre. Standing between Giannis and Harrell, Love told Antetokounmpo that he couldn’t have a ball to shoot and wasn’t allowed to shoot on the ground after the game.
So Antetokounmpo, who shot 4/15 from the line during the game for the worst shooting performance of his career, left the court and returned with two basketballs.
It was only when he returned that a Wells Fargo Center employee was pushing a large A-shaped ladder in front of the hoop where Giannis was firing. Antetokounmpo asked the man to move the ladder so he could stop his shooting and twice the man said no.
Angry at the surprising circumstances he was facing, Giannis tried to move the ladder out of the way and ended up knocking it over. The arena employee scattered when the ladder crashed onto the plaza.
Video of the ladder incident was posted to Twitter by a Philadelphia fan at the arena.
Giannis throws down the ladder and disregards the staff of@WellsFargoCtrafter losing to the@six. pic.twitter.com/DBrRu1nq7K
— Dennis Moore (@dem389) November 19, 2022
“I never try to disrespect anyone in any form,” Antetokounmpo said an hour after the incident. “I feel like just an unfortunate event happened today. I think people didn’t respect that sometimes players want extra work. I think it’s unprofessional to kick someone off or take the ball or whatever the case may be. Or place the ladder in front of someone while they try to do their job. That’s what we get paid for. You didn’t just choose us. We get paid.”
there is more Antetokounmpo, now visibly frustrated, continued his work at one end of the floor while Harrell fired at the other.
“Yeah, I took the ball, get the hell out of here,” Harrell said, as Giannis shouted from his end, “I’m doing my damn job.”
After Antetokounmpo left the court for good, his brother, Milwaukee teammate Thanasis Antetokounmpo, went to midcourt to speak with Harrell. The Sixers reserve center threatened Thanasis, saying at different times, “I’m going to hit you” and “You better send that back to the locker room.” Thanasis walked away without incident.
The Sixers declined to comment, but a league source said arena workers immediately removed video equipment from the tops of both back walls after each game. Philadelphia hosts Minnesota in Wells Fargo on Saturday.
It seemed to be Harrell’s problem that an opposing player, in this case Giannis, shouldn’t try to score extra shots after a game as a visiting team. But there’s no rule, written or unwritten, to prevent this, and players from both teams who are either having trouble shooting or haven’t been able to play much sometimes return to the ground after the game for a little extra work.
Giannis was still excited when he returned to the dressing room as he related the incident to his teammates, who shook their heads in disbelief. The atmosphere inside was tense and calm, save for Giannis’ voice as he explained, over and over, what had happened.
Then someone repeatedly turned off the lights in the room while the players tried to finish dressing, which angered even more of them.
It turned out that Liam Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ two-year-old son, was the culprit.
Antetokounmpo finished the game with 25 points and 14 rebounds. He’s actually in the midst of the worst two-game stretch of his career at the foul line. Giannis shot 4-of-11 in Wednesday’s win against Cleveland.
“It’s just funny for me because I have a basketball court at my house and my kids always go shooting and when it gets to 9 p.m. I go and take the ball from their hands,” Antetokounmpo said. “I feel like we’re more mature. We are professional athletes trying to do our job. You can go and ask (Harrell). I offered him to shoot, let’s shoot together. I don’t understand it now because there’s a basket right behind me. There was another basket behind me. And he decided to come and take my ball and put his coach in front of me and kind of push me off the field and go to the other basket.
“I’m not going to try to fight anyone. I have kids now, I need to save my money. But now, if you see that as disrespect, that’s up to you.”
Antetokounmpo is shooting a career-worst .587 from the foul line this season, but 8 of 26 in two games can certainly skew the numbers this early in the schedule. In the two games prior to those last two foul-shot clunkers, he was 11-of-18 and 7-of-8 on free throws.
the athlete‘s Staff writer Eric Nehm contributed to this story.
(Photo: Eric Hartline / USA Today)