Milwaukee Bucks Loyalty To Giannis Antetokounmpo Pays Off With Championship

Last night, Giannis Antetokounmpo with 50 points led his Milwaukee Bucks to their first championship in 50 years
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Last night, Giannis Antetokounmpo with 50 points led his Milwaukee Bucks to their first championship in 50 years, after another great big man, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, (along with Hall-of-Fame guard Oscar Robertson) led the Bucks to their first NBA championship.

The Greek-born basketball superstar of Nigerian parents, who less than ten years ago faced severe economic hardship, will now go into basketball infamy because his compelling story of perseverance was rewarded last night. Milwaukee should consider itself lucky the Bucks organization chose to take a chance on Giannis who not so long ago sold watches, handbags, and other such items, on the streets of Athens to support his economically struggling family.

Many words and phrases were mentioned as the Bucks team basked in their championship victory celebration late last night. We heard about the value of being a good teammate, about determination, about hard work. And, repeatedly, several Bucks players talked about the sacrifices it took for them to win the NBA Finals. Giannis also hinted at the sacrifices his parents made for him and his brothers–including Thanasis who also won last night as a teammate of Giannis, and Kostas who won a championship as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers last year.

But there is another word that must be considered in this feel good Milwaukee Bucks story of 2021, one that we rarely hear today in professional sports: loyalty.

Just last year, conventional wisdom had it that Giannis would leave the Bucks after falling short of reaching the Finals for the last several years, and after having been with the Bucks since 2013. The thought was he would follow the path that has become vogue in the new century and would form a super-team, likely in a more sexy NBA city.

But Giannis decided he would stay with the Bucks, and last December signed a 5-year $228 million extension. Cynics may say the money made Giannis stay. But it is clear Giannis wanted to win as he has done in Milwaukee.

As he enjoyed his NBA championship win with champagne and cigar, Giannis talked about the fact that the Bucks organization took a chance on him–and his family. According to him, before being signed his family still faced economic uncertainty and the Bucks invested in him and also whole-heartedly welcomed his family. Because of the loyalty the Bucks showed him, Giannis now seems to have never really entertained the idea of leaving Milwaukee.

And because of this reciprocal loyalty, the Bucks have won a championship in an old-fashioned way: building the team around the main franchise superstar player. But as great as Giannis is, we know championship teams are not won by any one player no matter how great.

Last night was also a fulfilling night of vindication for Giannis’ humble sidekick who he has played with ever since he arrived in Milwaukee: Khris Middleton. According to Giannis, Middleton has pushed him from day one toward greatness. All through the playoffs, Middleton has been clutch coming up with timely scoring again and again and last night was no exception. Middleton himself has come a long way from being a second-round draft pick, (39th) to being a rising star himself, and now NBA champion.

The Bucks made several important recent moves that put them over the top. This seasons acquisitions of Jrue Holiday, P.J Tucker and Bobby Portis were all perfect fits for the team.

Holiday is a significant upgrade at the point guard position. His size and the value of his defensive prowess showed itself as he hounded the Suns future Hall-of-Famer Chris Paul relentlessly all series.

Tucker has a similar mindset as Holiday, and is often given difficult assignments like having to defend Kevin Durant in the previous series. With Tucker and Holiday inserted into the starting lineup the defense of the Bucks became much more potent, especially with shot blocking big men like Brook Lopez and Giannis as the last line of defense. Portis has been a solid contributor off the bench and is loved by the fans.

This NBA Finals, unlike many in recent memory, was one of two underdog teams. The Suns were even more of an underdog team than the Bucks. They were not on the radar to make it to the Finals until into the playoffs.

But future Hall-of-Famer Chris Paul clicked with Devin Booker and the young Suns team. And young Bahamian center Deandre Ayton’s emergence as the season progressed solidified the Suns’ defense and gave them momentum and a conference championship in the highly competitive Western Conference. Unfortunately, the Suns fell short, and it is particularly disappointing for Chris Paul who waited 16 years to reach the Finals.

Giannis is now not only a regular season MVP, but now he is a NBA champion MVP. The beautiful part of this story is not just one of hard work and perseverance it is also one of the possibilities than can happen when people believe in you, support you, and are loyal to you.

Because Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Milwaukee Bucks exhibit these characteristics, they are now NBA champions and the celebration continues in Milwaukee.

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