CHICAGO -- With the numbers 23 and 33 dangling from the rafters of the United Center, a 19-year-old Giannis Antetokounmpo was in awe of his first experience playing on the road against the Chicago Bulls in December 2013.
"I definitely want to be one of the best players to ever play, but in order for me to do that, I've got to be locked in every night," Antetokounmpo told ESPN on Monday night, as he reflected on that initial trip here. "Because at the end of the day, if you don't win, it doesn't count. All the effort you spent, if you don't win, it really doesn't count."
Through 13 games this season, he already has fouled out three times and has posted at least four fouls in six other games, including Monday's contest. Antetokounmpo's head coach sees it as a lesson to be learned, as the reigning MVP still has the longest active double-double streak (13) in the NBA.
"Thirteen or 14 games in, it seems like an inordinate amount of games he's been in foul trouble. So the good thing is, I do think he's learning to play with it," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "We've had to finish at least one or two games without him, if not more, so he's always growing and learning from every experience -- so that's what makes Giannis special."
Despite his foul trouble, Antetokounmpo is putting up a career-best 30.1 points, 14.3 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game this season. His six-game stretch of 35 points and 15 rebounds earlier this month made him only the sixth player to average such a line since the merger, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
But Antetokounmpo's pursuit of greatness isn't just for a multi-game stretch or even for a season. He is motivated by the Bulls greats and inspired by the legacy they left in the city where they played.
He wants his jersey to someday reach the top of Milwaukee's Fiserv Forum, so he is doing things his way.
"I try to lock in and focus on what I've got to do. But yeah, previous years, like when I saw No. 23 -- and not just 23, when I saw 33 -- that was a guy I used to talk to a lot, Scottie," Antetokounmpo said. "It definitely motivated me. [Chicago is] a great basketball city. It's a city that Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen played in, so I had that extra juice in me.
"But now I'm just going out there and trying to win no matter what so you can just go back home and be happy."