(Credit: Getty Images)
Before I shift my focus to the 2021-22 season, free agency, and all that good stuff, I want to stop and smell the flowers a bit by reflecting more on what Giannis Antetokounmpo has accomplished this past season. The young Milwaukee Bucks star brought back an NBA championship to Milwaukee for the first time in 50 years by taking out the Chris Paul/Devin Booker led Phoenix Suns in six games. In those six games, Antetokounmpo averaged a jaw-dropping 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game en route to an NBA Finals MVP trophy.
Immediately after securing the championship, Antetokounmpo was overcome with emotion. Tears were flowing down his face. You could tell that he was still processing everything that was happening around him. After he was able to compose himself and do an interview, he remarked that even if he never wins another NBA championship in Milwaukee, at least he got one. He accomplished the mission that he set out to accomplish.
I would like to take Antetokounmpo’s comment a step further. By winning this one championship in Milwaukee, Antetokounmpo has solidified himself as an all-time great. I don’t know where he ranks among the greatest of the greats and quite honestly, it’s too early to say where he ranks given that his career is far from over. But regardless of where he stacks up, it’s safe to say that he is now one of the games’ greatest all-time players.
In this NBA Finals, we saw it all come together for “The Greek Freak.” He was basically score at will inside, he was making huge defensive plays, he was crashing the boards, and was the most dominant player all series long. The only real weak spot for him was the foul shooting and 3-point shooting, but he was able to overcome those weaknesses by being such a dominant force inside the 3-point line and around the basket. When you got the physical gifts that he has and are able to put it together like he did inside, foul shooting and 3-point shooting don’t become a huge concern.
What makes this all the more impressive is this was his first trip to the NBA Finals. It would have been easy for him to choke and cave under the pressure given this was his first time on this big of a stage. Many of the all-time greats have done it themselves. Instead, he rose to the challenge and delivered a sublime performance that few have rivaled.
Perhaps the best part of this whole story is how this all began for Antetokounmpo: Far away in Greece, first discovered as an intriguing yet raw talent picked 15th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. Nobody saw him becoming the all-time great that he is today. I’m not even sure if he saw it coming. Yet with hard work, humility, and a commitment to keep getting better each and every day, Antetokounmpo has seen the fruits of his labors deliver the goods in a big-time way.
While I have no doubt that this is only the beginning for Antetokounmpo and that he has the potential to win several more championships, I think it’s important to reiterate that regardless of what happens from here on out, Antetokounmpo has emerged as one the greatest players to ever play the game. He brought an NBA championship back to a city that was long thirsting for one and he did so with humility, class, and pure greatness.
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