Well, it’s finally happened. The championship drought in Milwaukee that has plagued the city since 1971 has finally been lifted by Giannis Antetokounmpo. The amount he’s done for the Bucks organization is nearly unrivaled, as he scored 50 points in the clinching game of the 2021 NBA Finals, becoming the only player ever to average over 35 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists per game. Antetokounmpo also averaged 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals per game on 61.8% shooting from the field, easily winning him the 2021 NBA Finals MVP award. Now, Antetokounmpo is among elite company, being one of three players to ever win an MVP, Finals MVP, and Defensive Player of the Year. The other two players that have done that are the GOAT Michael Jordan and one of the best big men ever in Hakeem Olajuwon.
Of course, Antetokounmpo didn’t win the championship alone. Khris Middleton had a big impact as Antetokounmpo’s sidekick, channeling his inner Jordan in the second half of big games. Middleton averaged 24 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game during the Finals, proving why he is the ultimate second option. Jrue Holiday also had a large impact, harassing Chris Paul and Devin Booker on the defensive end and on the offensive end averaged 16.6 points per game and hit huge 3’s in clutch moments. Despite the fact that both teams went with the same 8 or so guys, Milwaukee seemed to have a deeper bench than the Suns did, and it showed as role players like Bobby Portis and Brook Lopez signed.
Now that Antetokounmpo has a championship, I believe he will be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer as soon as he retires, assuming his game doesn’t fall off a cliff from here (which it won’t). The fact that he won his championship in Milwaukee after there was so much speculation that he was leaving the team just last season is amazing. Antetokounmpo said about his decision to stay in Milwaukee, “I just couldn’t leave. There was a job that had to be finished. Coming back, I was like, ‘This is my city. They trust me. They believe in me. They believe in us.’ … Obviously I wanted to get the job done. But that’s my stubborn side. It’s easy to go somewhere and go win a championship with somebody else. It’s easy. … I could go to a super team and just do my part and win a championship. But this is the hard way to do it, and this is the way to do it, and we did it. We f—king did it.”
Now, as great as it is to talk about the champions and how amazing it is that they won… we have to acknowledge this from Phoenix’s point of view. This hurts Chris Paul’s legacy more than anyone else on the Suns’ roster, as he is getting older and his championship window is closing. Considering that this was Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton‘s first playoff run ever, I would say not bad, as they have many years to work towards their goal together. Yes, Booker had a meltdown in Game 6, not doing much of anything; but in Kobe Bryant‘s first playoff run (a player Booker is often compared to), he air balled four key shots down the stretch which ended up eliminating his own team. Booker will get a ring eventually, but this year just wasn’t his year.
Paul getting to the Finals is an accomplishment as he has never been there before, but this marks the 4th time his teams have gone up 2-0 in the postseason and then proceeded to choke the rest of the series. However, Paul is determined not to go out on a loss, and noted that he will not be retiring following this season. As he continues throughout his NBA journey, however, he may find it more difficult to win a ring.
With the NBA Finals out of the way, the NBA Draft and Free Agency are nearly upon us, with endless speculations, signings, rumors, trades, and young men whose lives are about to change. Don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog for all the current info on what’s happening in the NBA, and as always, have an awesome day!