At 26 years old, he's had all the accomplishments an NBA player can dream of. Giannis Antetokounmpo has gone from selling CDs as a kid on the streets in his hometown Athens, Greece, to winning a championship. He's a representation of the American Dream that goes beyond the sport of basketball. On Tuesday night, he and his team overcame previous playoff disappointments by defeating the Phoenix Suns in four straight games after losing the first two.
Leading up to the Finals against the Phoenix Suns, people didn't even know if Giannis would play. He suffered what appeared to be a painful knee injury in game four of the Conference Finals against the Hawks and it looked like he would miss the beginning of the series. However, Giannis suited up for game one and played pretty well during the first two games, but the Bucks faced an 0-2 deficit. When the series shifted to Milwaukee they tied up the series sealed after Giannis delivered one of the best blocks in finals history to preserve the Bucks lead at the end of game four. The Bucks then proceeded to steal home court advantage in game five by fighting off a late Suns rally, and in game six, it was clear Giannis wasn't going to let this series head back to Phoenix right from the jump. On offense, he scored at will every time, whether it was layups, dunks, his new-found turnaround and even free throws. On defense he intimidated every shooter on the Suns, and would end up blocking five shots. His final stat line: 50 points, 14 rebounds, and five blocks.
Loyalty played a big part in Giannis' journey toward a championship. Many people wondered why Giannis wanted to continue playing in a city that didn't have the celebrity lifestyle compared to New York City or Los Angeles. Yet he believed he owed a championship to the Bucks as well as the city of Milwaukee for taking a chance on him when he was just 18 years old. After every loss, he would take criticism and improve his game. Early in the finals when he was asked if the fans are are affecting his free throw shooting, Giannis acknowledged that was the case and vowed to improve his focus on making the free throw. This became a strength toward the end of the series, as Giannis went 17-19 in game six. Most players would've tried to avoid such a question concerning a flaw in their game. Finally, he fully established himself as a closer during this playoffs. With home court advantage on their side against Phoenix, Giannis delivered one of the greatest closeout performances of all time. His 50 points are tied for the most ever in a closeout game.
If there's anything that can be taken away from Giannis' playoff run, it's that you don't have to play in a marquee city to win a championship. You can play in a small market in the midwest and still be successful. Giannis proved that you don't have to chase super teams in order to win a championship. Guys like Kevin Durant and James Harden chose to create super teams in hopes of winning a championship and while the results have been mixed, Giannis won the hard way. He had a pretty good roster of Kris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and Brook Lopez, but not the roster compared to the Nets. You can say injuries prevented other teams from advancing but that is part of the game. The attention Phoenix paid to Giannis helped him to get the best out of his teammates in the Finals. Whether it was Middleton's 40 point outing in game four, Holiday's clutch steal in game five, or even Bobby Portis' 16 points in the closer, you could see the Giannis effect during those last four games.
If Giannis wasn't already one of the greatest stories in all of sports, he certainly is now, To win a championship after years of falling short with the same team is super impressive given the fact that most players would've left had they been in Giannis' situation. Even if he never wins another ring, this year's championship will always be remembered for what Giannis accomplished.