Shortly after main the Bucks to their first title in 50 years with one of many biggest NBA Finals performances in league historical past, Giannis Antetokounmpo spoke to ESPN’s Malika Andrews about his journey to the highest of the NBA mountain and the importance of reaching his targets in Milwaukee. Whereas Antetokounmpo admitted he was already serious about what he might do to be able to seize one other ring, the NBA Finals MVP did handle to take a second to mirror on what he had completed.
“We would by no means win one other one. It is advantageous. We did it,” Antetokounmpo instructed Andrews. “We did what we had been purported to do. I would quite do it this manner, win one this manner, than go some other place and [join] a brilliant crew and win two or three.”
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These feedback inform you an incredible deal about Antetokounmpo as a participant and individual. His competitiveness, his dedication, what he values — Antetokounmpo laid all of it out proper there, and that is a part of what makes him one of many NBA’s most likable stars.
However his response to Andrews’ query additionally did one thing else. It put into perspective how a lot Antetokounmpo has achieved at such an early stage of his profession.
At 26 years outdated, “The Greek Freak” is a five-time All-Star, five-time All-NBA choice, four-time All-Defensive choice, Most Improved Participant, Defensive Participant of the 12 months, two-time NBA MVP and NBA Finals MVP. After defeating the Suns in Recreation 6 of the championship collection, Antetokounmpo joked that he needed to “develop a time machine” in order that he might return to 2013 and win the Rookie of the 12 months award. Does Mike Budenholzer have Dr. Stephen Unusual’s quantity by probability?
Multiverse theories apart, Antetokounmpo is on a timeline that would finish with him standing alongside a number of the recreation’s biggest gamers. Contemplate this: Antetokounmpo established himself because the clear No. 1 possibility on his crew and gained his first title quicker than the likes of Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James. When factoring in accolades, age, stature inside the league and surrounding expertise, it is laborious to search out somebody traditionally who belongs in Antetokounmpo’s class.
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Dwyane Wade (O’Neal), Magic Johnson (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Tim Duncan (David Robinson) all gained titles at a younger age as their crew’s greatest participant, however they’d vital assist. Larry Hen was second within the league in MVP voting and gained a title at 24 years outdated, however he solely averaged 21.2 factors per recreation. His back-to-back-to-back MVP run would come years later. Invoice Walton could also be the closest comp, as he was a champ at 24 and the clear chief of the Path Blazers, however his profession ended up being short-circuited by accidents.
The scary half for the remainder of the NBA? Antetokounmpo can get higher as he approaches what are sometimes the prime years of a famous person’s profession. After operating into postseason partitions in opposition to the Raptors in 2019 and Warmth in 2020, a light-weight bulb appeared to go off above Antetokounmpo’s head throughout the 2021 NBA playoffs.
He averaged a ridiculous 30.2 factors, 12.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals in 21 playoff video games and shot 56.9 p.c from the sphere. Within the NBA Finals clincher, Antetokounmpo went off for 50 factors on 16-of-25 taking pictures and went 17 of 19 from the free throw line. The outdated partitions that stood tall in entrance of him all of a sudden had cracks he might assault and exploit.
Jordan needed to wrestle in opposition to the “Unhealthy Boys” Pistons. O’Neal needed to get outplayed by Hakeem Olajuwon. James needed to be taught from his failures in opposition to the Mavericks. Antetokounmpo will take the ground subsequent season with the boldness reserved for under those that have risen above painful losses. It was the kind of breakthrough that would propel him into a unique stratosphere.
How a lot ought to we bump up the ceiling for Antetokounmpo? It’s going to rely considerably on parts outdoors of his management.
The Bucks should proceed to construct round Antetokounmpo over the subsequent half-decade and be ready to take massive swings, whether or not or not it’s chasing free brokers or pursuing Jrue Vacation-like trades. Present contenders such because the Nets and Lakers will current main challenges, and new tremendous groups will emerge sooner or later. After catching a couple of breaks this previous yr, the harm bug might chunk Milwaukee sooner or later.
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Even with these caveats in place, it could be unwise to put any kind of limits on Antetokounmpo. May he win a couple of extra championships? Are extra MVP trophies again on the desk? It feels as if doorways beforehand closed off to an ungainly, skinny child from Greece have all of a sudden been unlocked.
Antetokounmpo and the Bucks did precisely what they had been “purported to do,” and for that purpose, his legacy in Milwaukee is safe. Will probably be fascinating to observe how a lot he can add to it within the years to come back.