It was in every way.. the perfect ending to 50 years of frustration for the city of Milwaukee and The Bucks. For the first time since 1971 Milwaukee is atop the NBA and all it took was a performance for the ages from one of the youngest stars in the league. In their title clinching game 6 win over The Suns Giannis Antetokounmpo established himself as THE current force in the NBA with a 50 point performance to secure the title for Milwaukee. I mean, he's not nicknamed "The Greek regular person" he's called The Greek Freak for a reason and that was on full display in game 6. But it's not just what he did, it's how he did it that was just as meaningful.
In game 5 Giannis might have been the reason for the loss had Jrue Holiday not stripped Devin Booker in the waining seconds of the Bucks win. Down the stretch with a chance to ice the game Giannis missed 4 straight free throws that kept Phoenix in the game. So how did he respond in the clincher? He went 17-19 from the line.. essentially turning his one weakness into a strength when he had to have it, something that was not lost on him : "I made my free throws tonight and I'm a freaking champion. "I made them when I'm supposed to make them." And it wasn't just the free throws, it was the efficiency of his entire game: He took exactly 25 shots to get to 50 points in game six. That's the fewest number of shots needed to get to 50 in an NBA finals game. For comparison's sake LeBron needed 32 in his 50 point finals game and Michael Jordan needed 37 in his. How singularly unique has his play been? Well he's the first player in NBA history to have 5 All Star selections, 5 all NBA selections, multiple MPVs, a finals MVP and a DPOY award all before the age of 27.
His game speaks for itself but it's his story that makes the outcome so compelling. Giannis Anteokounmpo was born in Greece to Nigerian immigrants who's become a super star in the heart of Dairyland USA. What's more American than that? He was taken 15th overall in the 2013 NBA draft and outside of a few giddy scouts no one really knew who the hell this skinny kid was. They do now but true to who he is Giannis hasn't forgotten where he came from. The years of hardship trying to make ends meet for his family were on his mind at his crowning achievement. That's just who he is. Earlier in the finals he talked about how he stays focused. Giannis said if you focus on your past accomplishments that's ego; if you look ahead to what you can do in the future that's pride but by focusing on the present..that keeps you humble. How great is that? And how perfect is that for the city of Milwaukee? The prevailing wisdom has been in the free agent era of player empowerment small market colder weather cites like Milwaukee wouldn't be able to attract a keep super star talent that was needed to win titles. Giannis stuffed that logic like the dunk that essentially sealed game 5. He came, he STAYED, signing a super max deal last December, and he conquered. Who's to say this isn't the beginning of the greatest era in Bucks basketball history?
Over the past few seasons we've seen two cities with championship pasts find their mojo again thanks in a large part to young, humble super stars in their sports who are just hitting their primes. Patrick Mahomes led Kansas City to their Super Bowl 54 win 50 years after their last title, and a year and a half later Giannis Antetokounmpo did the same for Milwaukee. Fear the deer indeed, but most importantly, believe. Good things come to those who wait.. even if it takes a half a century to pay it off.