One would think that winning a championship would gain everyone’s respect. However, that hasn’t necessarily been the case for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Giannis Antetokounmpo made history last season by leading Milwaukee to its first title since 1971, but not everyone thinks the team deserved to win it. In fact, seven-time NBA champion Robert Horry recently disrespected the Bucks’ title, saying they didn’t even deserve to be in the Finals.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks won a championship during a weird NBA season
Like its predecessor, the 2020-21 NBA season was a weird campaign. It started later than usual due to COVID-19 forcing the league to take a hiatus the season before and not crown its champion until October. There were also several stars who went down with injuries throughout the year.
In the Western Conference, Anthony Davis didn’t finish the Los Angeles Lakers’ first-round series against the Phoenix Suns due to injury, and Los Angeles Clipper star Kawhi Leonard couldn’t play in the Western Conference Finals due to a partial tear in his ACL.
In the East, Kyrie Irving missed the final three games of the Brooklyn Nets’ Eastern Conference semifinals matchup with the Bucks, and James Harden was hobbled throughout most of the series as well. Trae Young also missed two games for the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals against Milwaukee.
Those were, of course, just a few examples.
The Bucks also had some luck on their side.
In Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Kevin Durant made what appeared to be a game-winning 3-pointer for the Nets, but his foot happened to be on the line. The score then remained tied, and the teams went to overtime, where the Bucks won.
And that specific instance is why Robert Horry doesn’t believe the Bucks should have been in last year’s Finals.
Robert Horry disrespected the Bucks’ 2021 NBA championship: ‘They only won that because of a big toe’
Robert Horry, who won seven championships with the Lakers, Houston Rockets, and San Antonio Spurs, recently appeared on an episode of his Big Shot Bob with Robert Horry podcast. And, while talking to his former Lakers teammate, Shaquille O’Neal, Horry discussed the possibility of current teams winning two championships in a row or completing a three-peat. The latter was something his and Shaq’s Lakers did in the early 2000s.
“I don’t think there’s ever gonna be a chance for a team to three-peat,” Horry said, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “You might get a team to go back-to-back, but as far as three-peat, I doubt that. It might (not) even be any back-to-back teams cause think about what the Lakers did. They win a championship; the next year, they got a whole different team. We know Milwaukee ain’t going to go back-to-back cause they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. … They only won that because of a big toe.”
It appears Horry thinks that if Durant’s toe hadn’t been on the line, the Nets would have likely been in the Finals instead of the Bucks. However, he did add that he respects Giannis Antetokounmpo for not forming a superteam to win his first championship.
“I respect his championship,” Horry said, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “If he is able to do it again, I will be his biggest fan.”
So, all in all, Horry wasn’t completely disrespectful of Giannis, just of his championship and its validity.
But, when it’s all said and done, Horry is wrong. The Bucks won the title because they deserved it.
Every NBA champion has had luck on its side
It’s actually hilarious that Horry is disrespecting the Bucks’ championship because, if his logic is correct, then he doesn’t deserve two of his rings. His 1994 and 1995 Houston Rockets wouldn’t have won their titles “in the first place” had Michael Jordan not been playing baseball.
All champions get a little lucky along the way.
More recently, the Miami Heat wouldn’t have beaten the San Antonio Spurs in the 2013 NBA Finals had it not been for Ray Allen’s shot in Game 6. The Golden State Warriors also won their 2015 championship after facing a Cleveland Cavaliers team without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in the Finals. The 2016 Cavs then, of course, came back from a 3-1 series deficit to win that year’s title, and their run started when the league suspended Draymond Green for Game 5. The Toronto Raptors also won it all in 2019 after Durant and Klay Thompson both went down with injuries for the Warriors.
So, yes, the Nets would have maybe made the Finals had it not been for Durant’s toe, or had it not been for Kyrie Irving and James Harden’s injuries. The Lakers may have also won it all had Anthony Davis not gone down. Those are all scenarios that could have happened — but they didn’t.
The Bucks won the 2021 NBA championship, and they did so because – like every other title-winning team in NBA history – they had great players and a little luck on their side.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference