July 21, (THEWILL) – The Milwaukee Bucks went from two games down in the National Basketball Association (NBA) championship series to winning the next four games in a row to deservedly become 2021 NBA champions. In that wild run of victories, one name rang out for herculean efforts, superhuman display and record-setting performances: Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Producing a performance in the final that was both heroic and reminiscent of the former Bucks legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (the player, who last led Milwaukee to a title in 1971) the Greek player of Nigerian origins, Antetokounmpo, scored 33 of his 50 points after halftime of Game 6 to beat the Phoenix Suns 105-98.
The victory confirmed what was apparent to everyone in the NBA: the one who is fondly called the “Greek Freak” was undeniably the NBA’s first Greek Finals MVP. The statistics of his contribution were outstanding as he scored 41 points in Game 3, secured Game 4 with an iconic game-saving block, clinched Game 5 with a legendary alley-oop dunk and dropped a 50-spot in Game 6.
There were no surprises when it emerged from the NBA therefore that, despite nearly missing the beginning of the series with a hyperextended left knee, Antetokounmpo was the unanimous pick for the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) award nor was anyone shocked to hear that the “Greek Freak” received all 11 votes from the media panel to get his first MVP ring.
The night of record-setting placed Antetokounmpo in an elite class of stars as he became the NBA’s first foreign-born Finals MVP since Dirk Nowitzki in 2011. And while he joins Michael Jordan as the only players to ever win NBA MVP, Finals MVP, All-Star Game MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in their career, Antetokounmpo has the distinction of having earned all four awards in the span of two seasons.
As has happened to many great sportsmen down the ages, with a player like Lionel Messi in Argentina’s view a very recent analogy, there have been questions about the possibility of achieving greatness and if it will ever come while Antetokounmpo remained in Milwaukee. Yet, not only did he commit to the Bucks, he has risen to the pinnacle of the game.
Antetokounmpo accepted a long-term deal by signing a five-year, $228.2 million supermax extension shortly before the 2020/2021 season began and delivered on his promise in the playoffs to give Milwaukee the NBA title and earn the accolades his performance deserved from the team, his fellow NBA players and the NBA itself.
And he delivered on the biggest night of his playing career for Game 6. The Greek dropped 50 points on 16-of-25 shooting, 14 rebounds, five blocks and two assists to become only the second player to score 50 to close out the Finals in NBA history. Impressively also, Antetokounmpo made 17 of 19 free throws.
Everything about his overall turnout was brilliant and it is easy to run out of qualifiers to describe Antetokounmpo’s game because he also improved in areas that used to be problematic on the night. The 26-year-old had notably struggled from the free-throw line in the playoffs, making just 55.6 percent of his shots.
No so in Game 6. Antetokounmpo’s clutch evening gave Milwaukee enough breathing room to earn their first championship since 1971. And, therefore Antetokounmpo, who already had a stacked resume that included a pair of regular-season MVP awards and five All-NBA team honors now will boast of some more.
He is now NBA champion, NBA Finals MVP, two-time NBA MVP, five-time NBA All-Star, NBA All-Star Game MVP, NBA Defensive Player of the Year, NBA Most Improved Player, three-time All-NBA First Team, the-time All-Defensive First Team with the world at the feet of the 26-year-old.
It will go into the records that Antetokounmpo is the first player with 50-10-5 in a playoff game since blocks were first tracked in 1973-74. He is the first player to record multiple 30-point halves in a single NBA Finals over the last 40 years and one will have to go as far back as 1958 to find anyone (Bob Petit) that scored 50 points in an NBA Finals-clinching game.
There might have been six players before Antetokounmpo’s record to ever score 50 points in an NBA Finals game but the Greek Freak did it on fewer shots (25) than anyone else and only Giannis and Pettit did it in a closeout game. Now, of all Power Forwards in NBA history, there are only two with multiple MVPs and a Finals MVP, the two best PFs ever: Tim Duncan and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
That is why there has been a rush to praise Antetokounmpo, especially from those who played the game and who best appreciate the sheer effort and magnified resilience it demands to reach this height. Several current and former NBA greats lavished praise on Antetokounmpo’s heroic achievement.
Earvin Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and many other big names wasted no time to extend their congratulatory wishes for the legendary performance of the ages that Antetokounmpo delivered to bring Milwaukee over the line for their first title in 50 years.
Antetokounmpo is the third of five sons born to Nigerian parents Charles and Veronica Detokunbo, who moved to Athens, Greece from Lagos in 1993, where they gave birth and raised the player. He was drafted 15th overall as a relative unknown in the 2013 NBA draft. In post-match comments, he felt his story was an inspiration to dreamers all over the world. He said:
“This should make every person, every kid, everybody around the world believe in their dreams. No matter whatever you feel, when you feel down, when things look like it might not happen for you, you might not make it — your career might be basketball, it might be anything — just believe in what you’re doing.
“Keep working. Don’t let nobody tell you what you can’t be and what you cannot do. I hope I give people around the world, from Africa, from Europe, give them hope that it can be done. It can be done.”Eight and a half years ago, when I came into the league, I didn’t know where my next meal would come from. My mom was selling stuff in the street. And now I’m here, sitting on the top of the top. That’s why I’m extremely blessed. Even if I never have a chance to sit at this table ever again, I’m fine with it.”