The Milwaukee Bucks are NBA Champions. This shouldn't be a surprise if you've been watching the last few seasons. They are led by one of the best basketball players we've ever seen, have a collection of supporting All-Stars and role players and one of the winningest active coaches in the league. They weren't an underdog in any way.
But man, it was damn fun to watch them win.
Exactly 50 years after Lew Alcindor and Oscar Robertson combined for 57 points to sweep the Washington Bullets, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 50 to help the Bucks edge out the Phoenix Suns in Game 6. After losing their third straight Game 1 and falling into and 0-2 deficit for the second time, the Bucks rattled off four straight wins after falling short of the Finals as the 1 seed the last two seasons. Again, this shouldn't be an upset. Now let's talk about Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Giannis' resume at 26-years-old is INSANE:— Joe Pompliano (@JoePompliano) July 21, 2021
• 2x NBA MVP
• 5x NBA All-Star
• 3x All-NBA 1st Team
• 2x All-NBA 2nd Team
• 2020 NBA DPOY
• 3x All-NBA 1st Team Defense
• $230M contract
And now 50 points, 14 rebounds & 5 blocks to win an NBA Title & Finals MVP.
For a back-to-back MVP, a lot of people still seemed to doubt Giannis. In December he signed an extension to remain in Milwaukee rather than join a stronger team that would likely guarantee a championship. He struggled with free throws throughout the playoffs and became a target for opposing arenas. How did he respond? By averaging 35 point in the Finals, scoring more than 40 points three out of six times including 50 in the closeout game, and making 17 of 19 free throws in Game 6. He was unanimously named Finals MVP. It doesn't matter that he's not a knockdown three-point shooter and plays unconventionally. He is 1 of 1 in the history of basketball. We should be grateful we get to watch him.
But this team was far from a one-man show. The other two of this Big 3 are Khris Middleton, one of the league's best shooters, and Jrue Holiday, one of the league's best on-ball defenders. Between Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Holiday, there isn't a skill on the basketball court that can't be done. But these three weren't enough. Winning this championship still required dominant rebounding by Brook Lopez, tough defense from P.J. Tucker, consistent shooting from Pat Connaughton and pure, unbridled tenacity from Bobby Portis. The Bucks weren't just a group of talented players, they were a well-built team. Every guy brought something different to the table and when it all mattered these guys showed up.
For as fitting a champion as they seem, the Bucks were so close to going home empty-handed a month ago. The epic 7-game second round series against the title-favorite Brooklyn Nets was already going to be talked about for years. Now that its narrow victor was able to complete their quest for the Larry O'Brien Trophy, the duel will be etched in the history of this sport forever.
In the Take-fied age of modern sports, some will add "buts" to this championship. The Nets, Lakers and Clippers had injuries, the upstart Suns weren't a worthy Finals opponent, COVID-19 impacted the season, but none of that matters. Every team suited up for the 2020-21 season. The Milwauke Bucks hoisted the trophy in the end. This banner will fly forever and these fans and 15 players deserve to celebrate that forever. We as basketball fans should too.