Before today, an NBA title was never born in Greece to Nigerian parents who had a son named Giannis Antetokounmpo who started playing basketball when he was 13 years old on ramshackle outdoor playground courts in Athens.© Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) accepts the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award from NBA commissioner Adam Silver after game six of the 2021 NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns at Fiserv Forum.
Thirteen years later – and eight years after the Milwaukee Bucks hit the jackpot by selecting the talented but raw Antetokounmpo with the No. 15 pick in the 2013 draft – Antetokounmpo is an NBA champion and Finals MVP.
It’s difficult to invent a more inspiring success story – a family whose children had to sell knickknacks on Athens streets to help put food on the table and pay bills.
And now? Standing at center court, first holding the Larry O’Brien championship trophy and then the Bill Russell Finals MVP trophy at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum late Tuesday night.
“I started playing basketball just to help my family,” Antetokounmpo said. “Tried to get them out of the struggle, the challenges we were facing when we were kids. But I never thought I’m going to be 26 years old, with my team playing the NBA Finals.
The Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns 105-98 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday, ending a compelling series in which Milwaukee became just the fifth team in 36 tries to come back from a 2-0 Finals deficit and win the championship.
“We just felt like we played better in Game 2,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Game 1, we were not very good. You have to look at yourself. You have to be honest. We went into Game 2 and we still felt like we were able to get over the hump and we were getting better and learned some things defensively. This group loves to take the challenge. They watched the film and got better, and from 2 to 3 we got better and 3 to 4 and through tonight. It’s been great to watch and witness what this team does when they are challenged.”
It is Milwaukee’s first championship since 1971 when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson starred.