By Adam Roberts – 7/21/2021
In 2013, a skinny kid from Greece was selected 15th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Draft. That kid was a relative unknown even withing knowledgeable basketball circles, and few expected him to turn into a force to be reckoned with in the league. In fact, even the local market struggled to pronounce his last name. I know that as a college kid passively following the Bucks at the time, I had never heard of a guy named, erm, Yee-ah-nus Ahn-teh-tuh-ku-noom-pouo? Gee-ah-nis Ah-te-kuh-num-poh?
Eight years later, Giannis Antetokoumnpo has etched his name into the long and storied history of Wisconsin sports legends with another piece of hardware to add to a growing list of accolades.
The Bucks are NBA champions for the first time in 50 years after beating the Suns 105-98 in Game Six of the NBA Finals in Milwaukee. Giannis went off for 50 points and 14 rebounds, earning NBA Finals MVP honors. The Greek Freak is just the seventh player all-time to score 50 or more in the Finals. The Bucks also become just the fifth team to win a title after trailing 2-0 in the Finals. It’s just their second championship and first since 1971. Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday were each double figure scorers, and while they didn’t explode in the points column they were contributors in other ways and Middleton DID have a clutch shot late. Holiday also defended well again against Devin Booker and had 11 assists and nine rebounds to go with his 12 points. Bobby Portis also continued his rise to the status of folk hero with 16 points off the bench.
It was also a historic evening outside the arena last night. More than 65-thousand fans crowded into the Deer District, and the whole area erupted in celebration when the Bucks won it. Milwaukee asked for, and the governor gave them, 150 National Guard troops to help direct traffic and manage the crowds. There were lots of reports of celebrations, but no reports of any damage or rioting.
However, three people are recovering after being shot around North Water Street downtown during the celebration. A suspect is under arrest after a 22-year-old man was wounded in one shooting overnight as thousands of fans poured into the streets to celebrate the Bucks’ 105-98 win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Authorities say two other people were wounded in another incident at the exact same time. No arrests yet in that case. Police say they are looking into the circumstances around both shootings.
As for the victory parade in Milwaukee, team president Peter Feigin did say this week on The Wendy’s Big Show the plan is to celebrate both this year’s champions and the 1971 Bucks champs, who were never truly given any kind of celebration by the city when they swept the Baltimore Bullets. Feigin also told WTMJ in Milwaukee the parade is being planned for Thursday.
In any case, the real story today should be the path this team has taken over the last fifty years to get to this point. From falling off the top the world after Kareem goes to LA, to getting close but never to the top in the 1980s. From struggling through the 90s and then once again getting close but not quite there in 2001. From the dark years of mediocrity last decade and the 15 win season in 2013-14. From dealing with the real threat of relocation before Fiserv could be secured and another bout of close but no cigar over the last few years. To now, on July 21st, 2021, where the Bucks sit atop a league where many never gave them a chance. A league where many expected their superstar to bolt and join a super team to get a ring.
To quote Bucks play-by-play announcer Ted Davis: “Wisconsin, we’ve got a room at the top of the world tonight!” Somewhere this morning, Brandon Jennings is smiling as he overlooks the Milwaukee skyline and says quietly to himself…
“Bucks In Six”