At the start of the regular season, Giannis Antetokounmpo was a two-time MVP, DPOY, 4x All Star and 4x All-NBA , but his play in the regular season was never the issue. His playoff shortcomings have been a blemish on his resume for years. It was getting to the point where people wondered if he’d become a “Yeah, but” player. A “Yeah, but” player is a player who consistently performs in the regular season, but under-performs when the bright lights of the playoffs hit.
The lingering question that sat on everyone’s mind was, “Can he get it done in the playoffs?” That question stuck even through a phenomenal 2021 regular season where he added another All-Star appearance, where he took home the All-Star MVP, and an All-NBA selection.
None of that mattered.
When the playoff schedule was released and the Milwaukee Bucks’ first round opponent came to be the Miami Heat, the media was skeptical if Milwaukee could actually get it done – as they were eliminated by Miami the previous year.
Milwaukee swept Miami, and it wasn’t close. Giannis averaged a modest 23.5 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and a block.
However, Miami was never the true test Milwaukee would have to pass if they wanted to reach the NBA Finals. That would be the Kevin Durant-led Brooklynn Nets, the prohibited championship favorites ever since they acquired James Harden.
Although injuries obviously could’ve played a part in the outcome, the series went to seven games and ended with Milwaukee winning in dramatic fashion. Giannis averaged 32 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and a block, capping the series off with a legendary 40 point, 13 rebound game seven.
Now officially Eastern Conference Finals bound, the Bucks had one task to complete before making it to their first finals appearance since 1974. All they had to do was beat the Atlanta Hawks four times.
Well, they did and it only took five games. Even with his scary, potential season-ending injury, in the games he played Giannis averaged 26.5 points, 10 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.5 steals and a block.
At last, Giannis had led his Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA finals and now had his mind set on beating the Chris Paul and Devin Booker-led Phoenix Suns.
After dropping the first two games, the Bucks rallied back and won the next three games and led the series 3-2 with Giannis averaging 32 points, 13 rebounds and six assists on 61 percent shooting; sheer dominance we haven’t seen since Shaquille O’Neal. Coming back home for game six, Milwaukee had a chance to win their first NBA title since 1971.
And they did it.
Giannis displayed one of the most brilliant performances in the history of basketball. He scored 50 points, the most in a finals clinching game ever. He also added 14 rebounds and an impressive five blocks. And what’s most impressive is that he knocked down 17 of his 19 free throws. Winning this championship finally answers the question of can Giannis get it done when it matters and the answer is a profound “YES!”
Adding this title and finals MVP catapults Giannis to the elite of elites, and in my opinion, the third best player in the entire league behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant. When you look at the list of all-time greats, the majority of them had to endure growing pains before eventually breaking through. It took the two greatest players of all time, LeBron James and Michael Jordan, nine seasons and seven seasons respectively to finally reach the ultimate goal. Seeing that Giannis is currently in his eighth season, this finals win puts him right on track to becoming one of the top five players to ever play the game.
Jason Smith is a Contributor for Unwrapped Sports Network. Follow him on on Twitter @thejsonsmith