Seven years ago, Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo took to Twitter and said he will never leave the team and the city of Milwaukee until the Bucks build a championship level team.
Giannis got it done. He delivered an NBA title as the Bucks topped the Phoenix Suns 105-98 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night to take the series 4-2.
Here’s the cool thing about Giannis’ first title: He didn’t need to form a super team to do it.
And he got it done all while playing with a bum knee that sidelined him for the final two games of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks.
Giannis returned to action and put together one of the greatest performances in NBA Finals history to lead the Bucks to their first championship since 1971. After posting 40-point performances in Game 2 and Game 3, he dropped a whopping 50 points, 14 rebounds and came up with five blocks while silencing critics by knocking down 17-of-19 shots from the free throw line.
As deservedly so, he was named Finals MVP and delivered a postgame quote that needs to resonate with all NBA players today.
“Obviously I wanted to get the job done,” Antetokounmpo said. “That’s my stubborn side. It’s easy to go somewhere and go win a championship with somebody else. It’s easy. I could go to a super team, and just do my part to win a championship. But this is the hard way to do it, and we did it.”
Giannis probably didn’t intend to call out other superstars, but he is not wrong.
Entering the 2020-21 season, Giannis showed his loyalty to the Bucks when he inked a five-year extension when most thought he would depart to win a championship.
If you look at the track record of past stars entering their third contract, LeBron James left for a super team in Miami and won an NBA championship, while Kevin Durant followed that same path in Golden State and Anthony Davis chose to leave small market New Orleans to win a title with the Los Angeles Lakers alongside James.
But that was never the case with Giannis.
He didn’t reject Milwaukee’s extension offer, test the free agent waters and look to sign elsewhere with another star. Giannis stayed loyal to the Bucks and came through with an NBA championship at the tender age of 26 years old.
That’s not to say Giannis didn’t have a supporting cast. Khris Middleton is an elite shooter who carried the Bucks at times while Jrue Holiday showed the world what he could do on defense and was solid on offense. Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton proved to be viable role players, and Brook Lopez was the consistent force he has always been.
However, Giannis led the way for Milwaukee during the NBA Finals and his performances were indicative of that.
Giannis winning a title with a team that ranks 25th in the NBA in terms of TV Market Size (922,000) and metro population (1,575,179) means a lot more than James and Durant claiming titles on super teams.
The towering, skinny kid from Athens, Greece who sent out that tweet about loyalty seven years ago definitely has a crystal ball.