Giannis Antetokounmpo tore up the basketball court on the way to his first NBA championship and Finals MVP award. For the series, he averaged 35 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists over six games to earn him the Bill Russell Finals MVP honors. Add in the further context that he severely hyperextended his knee toward the end of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks – at one point seeming like he would be out for upwards of a year – and the journey that brought Milwaukee their first championship in 50 years was not a walk in the park at all.
Thankfully for Bucks fans, Giannis never wanted to take the easy road toward a championship, something that has been heavily popularized in recent years as ring-chasing has become more prevalent throughout the league. In a post game interview following the on-court championship celebration, Giannis commented directly on the ring-chasing phenomenon, which he was directly linked to last year prior to signing a $228 million supermax extension to stay in Milwaukee.
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“I could go to a super team and just do my part and win a championship,” Antetokounmpo said. “But this is the hard way to do it, and we did it.”
By the “hard way,” Giannis is referring to the dedication it took him to stay committed to the team that drafted him in 2013, and trusting them to put the pieces around him to go deep into the playoffs as he developed into his MVP form. Running mate and shotmaking playmaker Khris Middleton arrived in Milwaukee at the same time and weathered all the challenges and playoff losses alongside Giannis, so the vindication of sticking it through together seems to make this championship feel much sweeter for the duo. Heading into the 2020-21 season, Bucks brass traded Eric Bledsoe and multiple draft picks to acquire star guard Jrue Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans, giving the Bucks the much needed playmaking and defense to put them over the top and bring a championship home.
Following a joyful night of celebration, Giannis posted to his Instagram story to sign off on the championship night, “welcoming” the Larry O’Brien and Bill Russell trophies to the Antetokounmpo home. Check out those photos below.