After a long, exhausting but ultimately exciting NBA season, 2020-21 ends with the Milwaukee Bucks as deserving champions.
As is the standard requirement for all NBA champions, it took an immense team effort, star power, excellent coaching, and city-wide support.
There are many reasons the Larry O’Brien trophy has ended its 50-year exile from Milwaukee, the biggest one is six feet, eleven inches, and 242 pounds.
Giannis Antetokounmpo lived up to his famous nickname throughout the postseason, the Greek power forward was freakishly good.
Giannis averaged 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, and five assists in six finals games against the Phoenix Suns, otherworldly numbers.
Giannis' 50-point, 14-rebound masterpiece put the exclamation point on his INCREDIBLE postseason 🏆 30.2 PPG 56.9 FG% 12.8 RPG 5.1 APG 1.2 BPG 1.0 SPG 56.8 FPPG pic.twitter.com/jOVtfUB1SM — NBA Fantasy (@NBAFantasy) July 21, 2021
Even more impressive is the fact that game one of the finals came just seven days after Giannis had hyper-extended his left knee. During the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks, Antetokounmpo went down and was widely expected to be out for a long while.
But in typical Freak fashion, not only did Giannis return in just seven days, he led his team to the championship with some all-time NBA finals performances.
In Game Six, he became just the seventh player in history to score 50 points in the NBA finals. In addition to scoring 50 of Milwaukee’s 105 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo grabbed 14 rebounds and recorded five blocks.
33 of his 50 points were scored in the second half, 20 in the third quarter, the most in an NBA finals quarter since Michael Jordan.
He also became the first player to have multiple 30-point halves in a single NBA finals series.
As if scoring 50 points to end a 50-year championship drought wasn’t enough proof of the divine, Giannis was uncharacteristically deadly at the free-throw line. He made 17 of his 19 free throw attempts, rendering the Phoenix Suns’ ‘hack-a-Giannis’ gameplan useless.
Giannis’ performance was faultless, unstoppable on offense, dominant on defense, it was a legacy-defining display, cementing his place at the very top of Milwaukee basketball history.
A Herd of Bucks
While Giannis’ greatness is not in any reasonable doubt, the truth remains he couldn’t have done it without the team.
The narrative is that Giannis won the championship on a poor team when he could have joined a super team. But that isn’t exactly true, the Milwaukee Bucks are as close as any team could get to a super team without actually being considered a super team.
The Bucks finished as the first seed in back-to-back regular seasons prior and improved the roster with quality additions.
While it’s true that the Bucks are technically still a small market team, they still bolster a strong roster. Four of their starting five are current or former all-stars and Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are arguably top 30 players in the league. Milwaukee Bucks NBA Finals Champions
"Khris Middleton, another clutch shot in these playoffs!" 56.9 left in Game 6 on ABC pic.twitter.com/2zlZfQgNi7 — NBA (@NBA) July 21, 2021
All of these contributed to helping the Milwaukee Bucks win their first championship in fifty years.
On the other side of a euphoric victory is crushing defeat, embodied by Monty Williams‘ painful post-game interview.
Monty Williams had an emotional press conference and then congratulated the Bucks in their locker room pic.twitter.com/SIWhOowcfm — Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 21, 2021
They can’t see it now because the loss stings, but the Phoenix Suns will appreciate this season sooner or later.
It will be a reference for other franchises on how quickly things can change if the right deal or move is done.
The Phoenix Suns transforming from one of the worst teams in the league to NBA finalists within a year without a superstar recruit (Chris Paul doesn’t count) is an incredible feat.
I dare say, the Phoenix Suns’ run to the finals is more impressive than Milwaukee actually winning the championship.
If they keep the team together with smart recruitment, they’ll be back and maybe even go a step further.
At the end of Milwaukee’s day
Here’s what you should take from the NBA finals; Giannis Antetokounmpo is that guy.
Let's compare the accolades of Giannis, MJ and LeBron at age 26… pic.twitter.com/VpVf0JHBFv — HoopsHype (@hoopshype) July 21, 2021
If his two MVPs and Defensive Player of the Year award did nothing to convince you, maybe his ring and Finals MVP will. Contrary to popular belief, it’s wasn’t that much of an underdog story. The team was built for this moment. He had help on the floor, excellent coaching from Mike Budenholzer, and a city that showed up night after night in support.
And for the Phoenix Suns, this wasn’t just a flash in the pan. They’ll be back.
Featured Image via Associated Press/Paul Sancya Milwaukee Bucks NBA Finals Champions