Giannis Antetokounmo realized a few dreams on Tuesday night. Having scored 50 points in Game 6 of the 2021 NBA Finals to send the Phoenix Suns home without the possibility of playing another game in their own arena on the back of the 105-98 loss.
The Suns had home advantage in these finals. The final game would have been played in Arizona had it come to that. However, the Bucks won four straight to ensure that wouldn’t be the case. Thus, closing the series out in six games and winning their first championship since 1971, the local Arizona sportsbooks had the Bucks as the favorite at -185.
How Giannis Started
Eight years ago, a very skinny Giannis, yet to be branded The greek Freak, stood with his parents inside the Bradley Center. This used to be the home of the Bucks, looked up at the rafters and said (per ESPN),”Maybe in 15 years, 20 years, maybe my name is up there next to Kareem, Oscar Robertson. I hope I’m there.”
The Greek star had just been drafted by the Bucks at 15th overall in 2013. On Tuesday night, he became the first to do what only the aforementioned legends did, firing Milwaukee to a championship, marking the occasion with 50 points, quite the telling number as this title is the team’s first in 50 years.
He added 14 rebounds and five very important blocks while being serenaded by 17,000 fans, with the numbers right outside the Fiserv Forum reported to be at a whopping 65,000. Antetokounmpo joined Dirk Nowitzki, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tony Parker, and Tim Duncan to become the fifth non-American to win the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award.
His 50 points tied the most ever in a closeout game; Bob Petit scored 50 for the St. Louis Hawks at home in Game 6 of the 1958 Finals to beat the Boston Celtics. “We f**king did it, we f**king did it,” he said to Khris Middleton after being presented with the MVP Award. The two stars have played out their entire careers as teammates and Antetokounmpo wouldn’t have preferred winning with anyone else by his side. “He pushes me every day to be great,” the Greece native offered. The Suns had erased a double-digit deficit to take a 49-42 lead into halftime and it was beginning to appear as if the Bucks would get a taste of their own medicine, having fought back from 17 points down to win Game 5.
No Looking Back for Giannis
Giannis, however, had no plans on flying back to Phoenix and went to work in the second half. Attacking the rim with calculated force and shooting an incredible 16-of-17 from the free-throw line to score 32 points in the half.
The two-time MVP would score six straight points around the midway point of the fourth quarter to hand the Bucks a six-point lead, making a layup and four consecutive free throws.
“There was a job that had to be finished. … Give the Miami Heat credit, but the bubble didn’t do us justice,” he told reporters after the win. “Coming back, I was like, ‘This is my city. They believe in me. They believe in us. I want to get the job done. “That’s my stubborn side. It’s easy to go to a super team and win a championship, play my part. It’s easy. But this is my team. We did it.
“Just believe. I hope I give people around the world — from Africa, from Europe — hope. I’m a champion. I hope this can give everybody around the world hope (to) believe in your dreams.”
Middleton chipped in with 17 points, five rebounds, and five assists.
“He played amazing for us; he led us when I was down,” Antetokounmpo said of his All-Star teammate. “Once we are done enjoying this, we’ve got to get back to work. Build off this. Hopefully, we can do it again.”
Don’t Worry What Other People Have to Say – Giannis
“I don’t care about what other people say. At the end of the day, we knew what we needed to do in this locker room,” Middleton remarked. “We challenge each other every day. To be better leaders. Be better teammates.”
The Suns had full control of the series after winning both starting home games to take a 2-0 lead. Sloppy plays down the stretch in Games 4 and 5 turned out to be very costly.
“It’s my first time doing it — this kind of hurt as a head coach,” a clearly emotional Monty Williams said. “When you go through something like this for the first time, you don’t expect to get this far. What a huge accomplishment by our players. … We got all the way to the Finals. That is still fresh in my memories. It’s just the pain that goes with your season being over.”
The focus, though, will be on Antetokounmpo, the Bucks, and the city of Milwaukee. The celebrations won’t be dying down anytime soon.