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Giannis Antetokounmpo, Doc Rivers say no asterisk with this title

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees

NEW YORK - AUGUST 6: A fans holds up a asterisk sign in the crowd during the game between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on August 6, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees won 13-6. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo will have none of your asterisk talk.

“This is going to be the toughest championship you could ever win,” the reigning MVP (and likely repeat) said to reporters Wednesday, via Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and his asterisk thoughts echo a lot of other players around the league: this championship is going to be different to win and will be mentally harder. With players being isolated from family for so long, and no fans for home games, the challenges are different but no easier.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers said in a conversation with Commissioner Adam Silver he said, “The team that wins this deserves a gold star, not an asterisk.”

Run TMC member and 1990s star Tim Hardaway said winning this title will require a real love of the game, even more than usual.

“It would definitely be tough, but I love to play basketball,” Hardaway told NBC Sports recently. “I think the guys that love to play basketball and not thinking about the fans and not thinking about what’s going on, that’s the team that’s going to win.

“You got to get the clutter out your brain as soon as you get there. You got to get that clutter out. When it’s time to practice, all this is over: the speculating this, what if that, if we didn’t go here, or if we not doing that. All that has to be out your mind….

“We can’t go in there with a clouded mind. You can’t go in there with other things on your mind, this has to be the sole thing. If you love to play basketball, it will be quick. If you don’t love to play basketball… if you have doubts, you’re not going to be ready to play, you’re not going to help your team.”

Everywhere you turn in the NBA, it’s the same idea: Don’t think of this title as easy to win. Getting team chemistry together, getting in shape, and mentally handling the stress of the bubble is going to separate the serious contenders from the teams showing up to make sure the paychecks keep flowing quickly.

And keep your asterisk comments to yourself.