Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks know a thing or two about heartbreak. Despite being a favorite to reach the NBA Finals out of the Eastern Conference the last two seasons, the Bucks ultimately failed to live up to expectations each year.
During the 2020 offseason, though, Antetokounmpo answered one text message that has since paid off big time for his team and has put it in a great position to win an NBA title.
He answered a text from Bobby Portis.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks failed to live up to expectations in the NBA playoffs
The Bucks finished with the No. 1 record in the Eastern Conference in two consecutive seasons. They went 60-22 in 2018-19 and 56-17 in the coronavirus-shortened 2019-20 season. Giannis Antetokounmpo also won back-to-back NBA MVP awards in those seasons, averaging 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds in 2018-19 and 29.5 points and 13.6 rebounds in 2019-20.
However, the Bucks failed to live up to expectations in the NBA playoffs each of those years.
They made the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals, but, after jumping out to a 2-0 series lead, they fell in six games to the Toronto Raptors. Antetokounmpo only averaged 20.5 points in those four losses and shot 43.5% from the field, compared to his 57.8% shooting percentage from the regular season.
During the 2020 playoffs, the Miami Heat upset the Bucks in five games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Antetokounmpo averaged just 21.8 points in four games against the Heat before missing the series-ending Game 5.
After that heartbreaking defeat to Miami, though, the Bucks added Jrue Holiday in the offseason and traded for P.J. Tucker during the 2020-21 regular season. They have both helped Milwaukee tremendously this year, especially in the playoffs.
However, the Bucks also added Portis in the offseason.
Bobby Portis texted Giannis during the offseason
Portis entered the NBA in 2015 and had already played for three teams before signing with the Bucks. In 2019-20 with the New York Knicks, Portis averaged 10.1 points and 5.1 rebounds.
But ahead of NBA free agency in 2020, Portis sent Antetokounmpo a text to let him know he wanted to help the Bucks. Antetokounmpo ultimately answered, and it has since become one of the most important answered texts of his career.
“I actually hit Giannis up and told him I can come help the team and I can help everyone out,” Portis said to The Athletic. “He went to the boss (front office) and told him come and get me. It made it better, having a guy like that back me and having confidence in me every day. Just be myself — it makes it that much funner and that much easier for me to come play the game.”
Portis eventually signed a two-year deal with the Bucks and has since played a huge role in their run to the 2021 NBA Finals.
Bobby Portis has helped Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks reach the NBA finals
Portis was a solid role player for the Bucks in the regular season, averaging 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds. However, he has been crucial in the postseason.
Sure, his overall stat line through 17 playoff games only reads 8.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. But Portis averaged 12.5 points and 6.5 boards against the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
He also came up big when Antetokounmpo was out due to injury that series. In a Game 5 win, Portis scored 22 points and pulled down eight rebounds before recording 12 points and nine boards during a Game 6 win.
The former Arkansas star then had 11 points and eight rebounds in the Bucks’ Game 3 NBA Finals win, helping trim the Phoenix Suns’ series lead to 2-1.
Antetokounmpo and the Bucks have a great chance to win an NBA championship, especially now that they only trail 2-1 and play Game 4 at home. They may not have even reached the Finals, though, had Antetokounmpo not brought Portis to Milwaukee.
Portis has them on the brink of a championship.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference