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Chet Holmgren 'Didn't Know' the Words to 'What a Girl Wants' Before Singing It in March Madness Ad (Exclusive)

The NBA star tells PEOPLE why he "can't listen" to Christina Aguilera's 1999 hit after filming AT&T's March Madness spot

<p>Michael LeBrecht/NBAE via Getty; Steve Granitz/FilmMagic</p> From Left: Chet Holmgren; Christina Aguilera

Michael LeBrecht/NBAE via Getty; Steve Granitz/FilmMagic

From Left: Chet Holmgren; Christina Aguilera

More than two decades after it was released, Oklahoma City Thunder stars Chet Holmgren and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander put a fun twist on Christina Aguilera's hit song, "What A Girl Wants," in AT&T's 2024 March Madness spot.

But 21-year-old Holmgren, who wasn't born until two years after the song came out, tells PEOPLE the nostalgia is, unfortunately, lost on him. "I mean, everybody knows who Christina Aguilera is, just through pop culture and everything," says Holmgren of the 43-year-old singer.

"But to say I had ever sung that song or listened to it in the car, I'd be lying," he says with a laugh. "I didn't know the words before the set day."

After filming so many takes of the commercial, 7-foot-1 athlete says he's burnt out on the 1999 hit. "I had to sing that for so many takes that the rhythm of it kind of got old to me, so I can't listen to it anymore," he says.

And admittedly, Holmgren's knowledge of Aguilera's discography ends with "What A Girl Wants." When asked if he can name another song by the singer, he says, "Unfortunately, no."

Related: No. 2 NBA Draft Pick Chet Holmgren Doesn't Want to Be 'Taken Too Seriously': 'I'm Unique'

The No. 2 overall draft pick in 2022, Holmgren says singing in this year's AT&T "What a Pro Wants" spot is a personal triumph after he backed out on doing so when he worked with the phone company on another commercial.

"I actually did a commercial with them the previous year, and they asked me to sing in it. I got cold feet on set and didn't do it. So I came prepared this time for anything, and I made it happen this year," he explains.

Holmgren credits "a whole lot of meditation" and "just preparing myself" for the successful shoot. "I knew I'd just have to go out there with confidence and do what I could," he shares.

As for Gilgeous-Alexander, 25, Holmgren says his teammate was "super calm and collected about" singing in the ad. "He definitely came into it with a lot of confidence," says Holmgren.

<p>Joshua Gateley/Getty </p> Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Joshua Gateley/Getty

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

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After he was drafted in 2022, an injury to his right foot — sustained while guarding LeBron James in a summer league tournament — forced Holmgren to sit out his entire rookie season with the Thunder.

But the athlete says bonding with Gilgeous-Alexander and their teammates on the sidelines that season lends to Oklahoma City's success this season. "As a team, we all do a really good job of doing things together and trying to bond not only on the court but off the court as well," the player says.

"This is my second year with the team. And not only myself and Shai, but everybody's kind of come close together and really bonded. So now that we're all playing together, it's kind of speeding up that process," Holmgren says.

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