Giannis Antetokounmpo produced a legendary performance for the Milwaukee Bucks to close out the 2021 NBA Finals and win a championship for the first time in his career.
Exactly three weeks after suffering a knee injury that appeared to put his role in the Finals in doubt, Antetokounmpo carried Milwaukee to their first championship in half a century.
The 26-year-old Greek forward of Nigerian heritage scored 50 points, matching the greatest total in a close-out game in NBA history, to spark the Milwaukee Bucks over Phoenix 105-98 on Tuesday.
He also managed 14 rebounds, five blocked shots, dominating defensive moves and even a 17-for-19 free throw showing in an iconic all-around masterpiece effort for the ages.
The ‘Greek Freak’ was an easy choice for the Finals MVP award as he had at least 40 points and 10 rebounds in there of the six games in this series. He also averaged 35.2 points and 13.2 rebounds across the Finals against Phoenix.
“It has been a long journey. I’ve done it all. I did anything that I could just to be in this position,” Antetokounmpo said.
“I’ve done it all. Tonight, that’s what I had to do. I had to do a little bit of everything. I had to defend, I had to rebound, I had to block.”
“I never thought I’m going to be 26 years old, with my team playing the NBA Finals. I never thought I would be sitting here. We’ve come a long way,” he said.
In thinking back on all of the people who helped him reach this point — from his mother, to his late father, to his longtime girlfriend, to his brothers — Antetokounmpo got emotional as he tried to express how much all of their sacrifices and support over the years had meant to him.
“This is for my mom,” he said, fighting off tears. “She works extremely hard every day for me to be in this position, and she never pressured me to do other things. This is for my dad. He’s watching from above, and he can see it. This is for my significant other. Every day, she helps me be a better person. She lets me do what I’m supposed to do, She takes care of my son. And for my brothers.
“I can be stubborn sometimes. I can disconnect myself from the world because I want this so bad. And I was able to get it, that’s why I was tearing up. But, like, people helped me be in this position. I didn’t do this by myself. Every freaking day people helped me. I want to thank everyone.”
When asked about what it means to him to represent the continent of Africa, as both of his parents are from Nigeria, he said that he hoped his accomplishments could serve as a symbol to others of what is possible for anyone, no matter who you are or where you come from.
“Obviously, I represent my country, both countries, Nigeria and Greece,” Antetokounmpo said. “A lot of kids from there. But not just from Nigeria — all Africa and all Europe.
“I know I’m a role model. But this should make every person, every kid, anybody around the world believe in their dreams. No matter whatever you feel when you’re down, when you don’t think it’s going to happen for you or you might not make it in your career — might be basketball, might be anything — just believe in what you’re doing and keep working.”
With the victory, the Bucks clinched the NBA Finals 4-2 and became only the fifth team to win the best-of-seven championship series after losing the first two games.