It took 50 years, but the Milwaukee Bucks are once again NBA champions. It was an improbable run that would’ve ended early had Kevin Durant’s foot been a little bit smaller. Giannis Antetokounmpo led his team with one of the most dominant Finals performances ever.
It was easily the most impressive individual Finals performance since LeBron James’ 2016 run, but the Cleveland Cavaliers lost that series to the Golden State Warriors. Giannis ended his first Finals run with a championship and put up 50 points in the closeout Game 6 against the Phoenix Suns.
“It was the third game this series with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds for Antetokounmpo, a dominant debut finals performance that takes its place among some of the game’s greatest,” Associated Press NBA reporter Brian Mahoney wrote. “Antetokounmpo finished with 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game while shooting 61.8%, the first player in finals history to reach those numbers.”
LeBron, now with the Los Angeles Lakers, sent a message via Twitter to the Bucks star after his dominant performance:
LeBron was in the exact same position last season as he won Finals MVP after the Lakers won the championship. After two MVP seasons that ended with disappointing playoff runs, many questioned if Giannis has what it takes to get over the hump. He answered all of those questions with an iconic run in the Finals.
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Is Giannis Now the Best Player in the NBA?
Over the past couple of seasons, there’s been a lot of emphasis on what Giannis couldn’t do. He’s not a strong shooter, especially when it comes to free throws. In the modern NBA, big men usually need to be good at those things to succeed. Giannis just proved that he’s so good at everything else that it doesn’t matter if he can’t knock down a 3-point shot.
There’s now a strong argument to be made that Giannis has supplanted LeBron as the best player in the NBA. The Lakers got bounced early in the first round of the playoffs by the team that the Bucks just beat. LeBron didn’t play particularly well, as he was clearly still hurt by an ankle injury he suffered earlier in the season. At 36 years old, LeBron isn’t likely to get any better. He had a very long run as the best player in the NBA, but it’s coming to an end. As of right now, it looks like Giannis has taken the mantle.
Old Kobe Bryant Tweet Resurfaces
When he was still alive, the late Kobe Bryant would often take notice of thriving young players in the NBA. When Giannis won his first MVP award in 2019, Kobe sent him praise but made sure that the big man knew he needed to win a championship. Now that the mission has been accomplished, that tweet has resurfaced:
Giannis took a lot of flack when he decided to sign a long-term deal with the Bucks. Small market teams don’t win championships very often, but “The Greek Freak” was determined. He obviously made the correct decision in hindsight and has to be very happy. It’s one thing to win a championship with a superteam; it’s another thing to win with the team that drafted you.
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