Giannis Antetokounmpo’s night started with a block chase over Mikal Bridges, propelling him and his layup to another dimension, before galloping straight to the other end for two points as if it was the easiest thing in the world. world.
The motionless object and the unstoppable force were one.
It ended, well, we don’t know how, but it almost certainly involved those glasses, that champagne, and the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy. Imagine MVP Bill Russell Finals tucked in next to him for good measure.
Somewhere in between there was a performance of such magnitude that at times it was difficult to tell what was causing the shaking in Milwaukee and throughout the Midwest. Was it the 65,000 fans crammed in front of the Fiserv Forum who burst out after each basket? Or was it the only force of nature trapped within, the basketball player with the same genetic makeup as a tsunami?
There is no writer past or present who could come up with such a good character. The Greek son of Nigerian immigrants who grew up selling sunglasses, handbags, DVDs and CDs on the streets of Athens to support his parents and did not touch a basketball until the age 13.
At 15, he wasn’t even among the top 10 players at his school. At 18, he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 15th selection in the first round.
Twenty-one, first triple-double. Twenty-two, first All-Star selection. Twenty-four, first MVP.
And Tuesday night, at age 26, he became NBA champion and Finals MVP after delivering a 50-point, 14-rebound, and five-block opera against the Phoenix Suns.
It’s the kind of otherworldly trajectory that would make a meteor blush.
During the game, as Twitter fell on itself in disbelief at Antetokounmpo’s staggering refusal to accept a Game 7 decision maker in Phoenix, many took the opportunity to highlight his physical transformation from lanky teenager to Adonis. of imposing marble.
It’s impressive, of course, something akin to watching Bruce Banner transform into the Incredible Hulk so gradually you don’t even notice him until you see his old vacation photos. But then the point is missing.
Giannis’ physique was the reason the Bucks franchise took him as a project all those moons ago, hoping and praying for it through hard work in the gym, even harder training and a touch of magic. black that enticing amalgamation of length, speed, agility, height and coordination would end up looking like something akin to a capable rotation option in the NBA.
No matter how optimistic these vague projections are for Giannis, it doesn’t matter. It would be doing a disservice to say that he has passed them. It exceeded expectations in the same way the Sistine Chapel ceiling did a fantastic job of keeping the rain out.
Giannis not only added muscle on top of his muscles, grew several inches that he didn’t need and started to have his hair cut. Ultimately, it happens to all of us when adulthood strikes, just on a less heroic scale. No. If anything, his setting is the thing that has gone through the quietest tampering, both to his skills and intelligence as a basketball player as well as to his character’s content in. outside the field.
That’s not to say he was never incompetent or hateful. Just now, having seen it float on the confetti-strewn ground of the Fiserv Forum first in disbelief, then relief, then ecstasy, it’s hard not to take stock of the significant growth of the Fiserv Forum. person, rather than the bones and musculature that hold it together. him.
After all, those who have watched the NBA since 2013 have taken this trip with him, even if it’s hard to remember the version of Giannis who wasn’t the most complete player in basketball bar a jump shot, or The face of the Milwaukee The Bucks franchise, or possibly the healthiest man in universe history, attests to this as follows.
The last time the Milwaukee Bucks won a championship, half a century ago in 1971, was because they had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His generational talent was offered to the franchise after winning a draw for the first overall selection in the 1969 draft, with the number two pick going to the Phoenix Suns.
In other words, it was chance and nothing more. If it had been heads and not tails, or tails, it would have meant Neal Walk, not Lew Alcindor, and an even longer drought than the one they just broke.
With Giannis, it’s different. It was not obvious. It was never a sure thing. And it was not luck. The Bucks saw something in him, even if it was just his sprawling limbs and stride like a long jumper. In return, he also didn’t force the Los Angeles Lakers’ path at the first opportunity.
He stayed in Milwaukee because this was the team that tried his luck, the place he started calling home and – let’s be honest – because they were giving him $ 228 million to stay. But also, and I think that’s the main reason, simply because he liked it. They obviously like to have it too. Its immaculate development since has been precisely the result of this embryonic relationship, and not a happy coincidence.
Watching him in Game 6, in fact throughout the Finals, the playoffs and the last few seasons, has been both a privilege and a joy. Despite all of his physical gifts – he remains the most impossible athlete in a league full of impossible athletes – it is his determination, wit, and courage that draw these great inspirations as often as the blocks that end the world.
He had five last night, enough to knock Earth off his axis, but most memorable was the one he didn’t, missing a layup from Devin Booker with his fingertip after gobbling up half the pitch in pursuit. Furious at itself, the body language then said “Damn, I should’ve made it” not “I’ll get the next one.” For Giannis “I’ll take the next one” goes without saying.
Even free throws, his main weakness throughout the playoffs, weren’t a factor when it really mattered. After averaging 56 percent on the line, he abruptly lost 17 of 19 in Game 6, almost 90 percent. It would be considered a miracle if it wasn’t for Giannis. So would the Bucks’ first title in 50 years, and the first 50+ points, 10+ rebounds, and 5+ blocks in playoff history.
There are athletes you encourage because they are the most dominant on the field, or the most gracious off. There are big markets and great teams. There’s Zeus and Poseidon, Batman and Superman, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Then there is Giannis. Whatever it is, whatever it may still be. On the other side of the Atlantic, we are perhaps tempted to cite him as the brilliant realization of the American Dream, the poor Greek kid who fell to the Statue of Liberty and saw his fortune change overnight. . He is much more than that.
It is Europe and Africa. Ordinary and extraordinary. A supreme athlete and a street vendor. Above all, he is human. He’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, and his very real, barely believable comic book story brings us a little closer.
He is a hope for all kinds of people.