In his eighth NBA season, Giannis Antetokounmpo reached the mountaintop of winning his first NBA Title. The Milwaukee Bucks star dealt with years of criticism directed toward his game. Antetokounmpo’s latest feat allowed him to finally quiet James Harden.
Giannis Antetokounmpo leads the Bucks to an NBA title
After years of falling short of contending for an NBA title, the Bucks finally strung together a championship run.
Antetokounmpo led the way while stepped up on the grandest stage. He dominated the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, earning the Finals MVP award after averaging 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game. He capped it off with a 50-point outing in the championship-clinching Game 6 win.
Antetokounmpo effectively joined Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Tim Duncan as the only players to win multiple regular-season MVP awards and a Finals MVP by age 26 or younger. Beyond that, his latest feat also silenced a fellow All-star talent.
Giannis Antetokounmpo took a year to get the last laugh over James Harden’s pettiness
During the draft selection process between Antetokounmpo and LeBron James for the 2020 All-Star teams, the Bucks star forward made headlines after playfully prodding James Harden.
The 26-year-old selected former Boston Celtics point guard Kemba Walker over Harden because he wanted “somebody that’s gonna pass the ball.” It didn’t take long for Harden to fire back an indirect verbal jab at Antetokounmpo in late February last year.
“I wish I could be 7-feet, run and just dunk; that takes no skill at all,” Harden said in an ESPN interview with Rachel Nichols. “I’ve got to actually learn how to play basketball. How to have skill. I’ll take that any day.”
Harden took exception to Antetokounmpo’s comments attempting to bash him over his lack of a consistent offensive game outside the paint. However, the two-time league MVP gets the last laugh over the Nets guard as his “no skill” guided the Bucks to a championship.
Meanwhile, Harden remains without an NBA title through the first 12 years of his career. It’s isn’t to say that the 31-year-old won’t accomplish that feat, but Antetokounmpo reached the mountaintop before he has. The Bucks star likely won’t go to that level of pettiness, but his hard work toward his craft and dominance in the playoff lifted him and the Bucks toward the ultimate goal.
Regardless of what Harden, any other player, or critics say about Antetokounmpo’s game, he’s now an NBA champion.
Bright future lies ahead in Milwaukee
Harden’s comments aside, the Bucks hold a tremendously bright future ahead with Antetokoumpo.
The 26-year-old ended all the outside doubt concerning his tenure in Milwaukee after signing the five-year, $228.2 million extension last December. His contract runs through the 2025-26 season, which keeps the star forward in place throughout his physical prime.
Meanwhile, the Bucks possess the rest of their core group under multi-year deals that extend through at least the next few years. Jrue Holiday inked a four-year, $134.9 million extension that runs through the 2024-25 campaign, while Khris Middleton’s five-year, $177.5 million deal moves through the 2023-24 season. Brook Lopez is also under contract through the 2022-23 campaign.
The Bucks are positioned quite well to not only repeat as NBA champions but remain in the title picture for years to come. As long as Antetokounmpo is healthy leading the way, Milwaukee will always have an opportunity to vie for a championship.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.