Milwaukee – Giannis Antetokounmpo had the Larry O’Brien Trophy in one arm, the NBA Finals MVP Trophy in the other and there was a cigar on the table in front of him.
All the work it took to pull the Milwaukee Bucks out of a team that won 15 games as a rookie one-to-one with 16 playoff wins has finally been finished.
“Now is the time to celebrate,” Antetokounmpo said.
Milwaukee waited 50 years for this.
Antetokounmpo’s performance capped one of the greatest NBA Finals of all time for a player. He tallied 50 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots as the Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns 105-98 on Tuesday night to win an entertaining 4-2 streak and cap off a happy return to the fan-packed playoffs following the NBA bubble of Last year.
It was the third game in this series with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds for Antetokounmpo, a dominant performance in the first final who is among the best in the game. He finished with 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5, 0 assists per game while shooting at 61.8%, the first player in the history of the Finals to reach these numbers.
“It’s not hyperbole to say that Giannis Antetokounmpo had one of the best single-game performances in NBA Finals history in Game 6,” wrote Michael Kaskey-Blomain of CBSSports.com .
He shot 16 for 25 from the field and put in an incredible 17 of 19 free throws – a spectacular performance for any shooter, not to mention one who only hit 55.6% in the playoffs and was sometimes ridiculed for it.
“People told me I can’t do free throws and I did them tonight. And I’m a hell of a champion,” Antetokounmpo said.
The Bucks tweeted part of this interview:
He jumped around the pitch waving his arms with 20 seconds left to encourage fans to cheer, but it wasn’t necessary. Their voices echoed inside and out for hours, after waiting 50 years to celebrate a winner after Lew Alcindor – before becoming Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – and Oscar Robertson led the Bucks to their first championship in 1971. .
“For the city, I’m sure that means everything,” said Khris Middleton, the other player on that 15-67 team in 2013-14. “They’ve seen the work we’ve done over the years to get them to this point.”
In a season played largely without fans, the Bucks had 65,000 crammed into the Deer District outdoors, a wild party that was to last into Midwestern night.
The cameras of CBS Milwaukee affiliate WDJT-TV got it all from wild cheers to fireworks:
The party wasn’t bad inside either: Confetti rained inside as fans chanted “Bucks in 6!” Bucks in 6! – a hopeful boast from a former player that turned out to be a prophetic rallying cry.
“I hope they enjoyed it as we are now,” Middleton added.
The Bucks became the fifth team to win the NBA Finals after falling 2-0 and the first to do so by winning the next four games since Miami against Dallas in 2006.
The teams that entered the NBA together as expansion clubs in 1968 delivered a fine final, with the last three games all in balance until the fourth quarter.
The Bucks won them in large part thanks to Antetokounmpo, a two-time regular-season MVP who raised his level of play even higher in the Finals and was voted Unanimous MVP of the NBA Finals.
He’s been the star of these finals in every way, from his powerful play on the pitch, to his humble thoughts in interviews, to the time it took after Tuesday night’s win to find kids to five in the middle of the celebrations. He later cried as he spoke of the sacrifices his family endured while growing up in Greece.
He did all of this after missing the last two games of the Eastern Conference Finals with a hypertensive left knee, an injury he feared was serious enough to end his season.
Think about what people might have missed.
Antetokounmpo sat down for a memorable interview with “60 Minutes” in 2018. The show tweeted about it ahead of what turned out to be the last game of the series: