Move over LeBron James, there’s a new star in town. After winning consecutive MVPs, Giannis Antetokounmpo got the most important hardware of his career, capturing his first NBA championship with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Some say stardom can’t occur unless you win the big one. The Greek Freak did just that and did so with a 50-point effort in Milwaukee’s series-clinching, Game-6 win over the Phoenix Suns. He’s the refreshing new face in the NBA. He’s genuine, unselfish, and a great teammate – unlike that guy with the Los Angeles Lakers.
For Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, patience paid off
Antetokounmpo is the perfect example of hard work paying off. The Bucks took a shot with him in 2013, selecting him with the 15th overall pick as a relatively unknown prospect. He was a scrawny 18-year-old who was 6-foot-9 and weighed 190 pounds. The Bucks took their shot with the teenager from Greece after others passed, mainly because of the unknown factor. It took some time for him to develop, but it certainly paid off.
Antetokounmpo blossomed into the 6-foot-11, 242-pound Greek Freak he is today with his dedication to his body and his game. The Bucks were patient with him, playing him 24 minutes per game as a rookie. He averaged 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds as an awkward teen playing among men.
The following season, he had a much bigger role, averaging 31 minutes, while putting up 12.7 points and 6.7 boards. He improved each year and collected the first of his back-to-back MVP honors during the 2018-19 season. Prior to this season, he was a wanted man when he became a free agent.
He stayed loyal to the city that made him feel at home. He won a title with Khris Middleton, a teammate he’s spent the last eight seasons with. After the title was secured, Antetokounmpo didn’t forget how it all began. He thanked John Hammond, the GM of the Orlando Magic. Hammond is the former Bucks GM who drafted that unknown talent from Greece.
“John Hammond drafted me, believed in me, believed in my family, brought them over here,” Antetokounmpo said in his postgame press conference. “He made me feel comfortable. He made me feel like I was his son when I was homesick and alone in the hotel.”
Move over LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo shows us what a genuine, unselfish star looks like
Antetokounmpo didn’t capture his third straight MVP but finally got what he really wanted in his first championship ring. When his name wasn’t called for that MVP trifecta, there was no pouting, unlike what took place in LA when he did win the award in 2020. With Antetokounmpo, it’s all about ‘we.’ With James, it’s all about ‘me.’
His team had just defeated the Denver Nuggets to go up 1-0 in their playoff series, but James was “pissed off.” Why? Because he finished second to Antetokounmpo in the MVP voting. When asked how he felt about the MVP voting after that game against Denver, James sulked, whined, and pouted.
“Pissed me off. That’s my true answer,” he said, according to NBA.com. “It pissed me off because out of 101 votes, I got 16 first-place votes. That’s what pissed me off more than anything. You know, not saying that the winner wasn’t deserving of the MVP. But that pissed me off. And I finished second a lot in my career, either from a championship, and now four times as an MVP.
“I never came into this league to be MVP or to be a champion. I’ve always just wanted to get better and better every single day, and those things will take care of itself. But some things is just out of my hand and some things you can’t control. But it pissed me off.”
James never mentioned Antetokounmpo in the comment, only referring to him as “the winner.” The Lakers just won a huge game and the conversation was all about him and his bruised ego. He even knew exactly how many first-place votes he received. James has made some embarrassing statements before, but this one was right up there with the best (worst?) of them.
Antetokounmpo is a refreshing change from James
James and the Lakers won the title in the pandemic-shortened season a year ago. Remember, that’s the series against the Miami Heat when James walked off the court and headed to the locker room with time remaining in Game 3 because his team was losing. Antetokounmpo left the court early in Game 3 and Game 4 only because he “had to tinkle.”
Antetokounmpo won his first title and he was like a kid in a candy store. He said he “stole” the trophy from the team so he could admire it. He won without recruiting players to come play with him. Antetkounmpo didn’t leave the only American city he’s ever played for to join a super team. There was no overly dramatic TV appearance during free agency when he decided where he was going to take his talents.
Antetokounmpo can’t be knocked for never having won a title. He did it the right way, and he gave plenty of credit to those around him. He celebrated with 50 chicken nuggets and a huge smile on his face.
Please don’t ever change.