Giannis, Bucks visit prison with Laker showdown looming

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Giannis Antetokounmpo, de los Bucks de Milwaukee, realiza una clavada durante el encuentro del lunes 9 de diciembre de 2019, ante el Magic de Orlando (AP Foto/Morry Gash)

STURTEVANT, WI – Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks chose to recover from the end of their 18-game winning streak at a medium-security Wisconsin state prison.

Two days before an anticipated showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night, the team was scheduled for a “player individual day” on Tuesday — usually used for individuals to get extra training or medical treatment. Instead, the players opted to hear stories from inmates at the Racine Correctional Institution.

“I wasn't seeing guys that made mistakes,” Antetokounmpo said. “I was just seeing humans, humans that were laughing, that were trying hard, humans that shared their stories. That really touched me and I realized sometimes we take things for granted. That's not going to happen again.”

Antetokounmpo, his older brother, Thanasis, and other Milwaukee teammates Sterling Brown, Kyle Korver, George Hill, Pat Connaughton and D.J. Wilson traveled about 30 miles south of Milwaukee to the prison to take part in the “Play for Justice” initiative, which brings together NBA teams and inmates at correctional facilities across the country.

The event, organized by Represent Justice, One Community and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, sets out to break down stigmas associated with individuals — disproportionately people of color and the poor — who are impacted by the criminal justice system. The event was launched alongside the upcoming film, “Just Mercy,” about a wrongfully convicted black man on death row in Alabama.

The Sacramento Kings held the first “Play for Justice” event last week at Folsom State Prison in California.

Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer, some of his assistants and former NBA player Caron Butler — born in Racine — also attended as some of the more than 1,600 incarcerated men shared stories of crimes and mistakes that changed their lives.

“Whenever you're around anything that's powerful, that's bigger than you, that makes you think about how do we make a difference in life and other people's lives, and makes you think about other people, I think it makes our team think about their teammates or how they could be doing something maybe better for each other and be more empathetic toward each other," Budenholzer said.