Giannis Antetokounmpo the King of Wisconsin

Giannis Antetokounmpo  the King of Wisconsin
NBA Finals, Milwaukee Bucks, Bucks

NBA Finals 2021: The evolution of Giannis Antetokounmpo, from … Wed, 21 Jul 2021 08:00:00 +0100-The Milwaukee Bucks star delivers a performance for the ages — with surprising success at the line — as the Bucks clinch first their NBA title since 1971.


Giannis Antetokounmpo, the King of Wisconsin

Photo: Justin Casterline/Getty Images

When he started hitting the free throws, that was that. 

After all, missing free throws was supposed to be the vulnerability in the Giannis Antetokounmpo Experience. No matter how thrilling and dominant the two-time NBA MVP was — and he’d become, at 26, one of the most thrilling and dominant players in the game — Antetokounmpo at the line was a deeply iffy proposition. He bricked. He airballed. He took too much time. What should be a high-percentage shot was now a torturous riddle. Hostile crowds goaded the referees to flag Antetokounmpo for a 10-second time violation, loudly counting upward: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6…

Not Tuesday. Not in the most important game of Antetokounmpo’s career, and the biggest basketball moment in the city of Milwaukee since the Kareem/Oscar Robertson title 50 years before. In a Game 6 clincher versus Phoenix, Antetokounmpo was once more a tornado in the open court, leaping over helpless Suns for easy twos, swatting shots at the other end, showing the kind of relentless heart that Bucks fans have known since Antetokounmpo arrived as an unknown teenager from Greece.

But now, remarkably: Antetokounmpo was hitting those free throws. He shot 4 for 4 on free throws in the first quarter, 1 for 2 in the second, 7 for 7 in the third quarter, and 5 of 6 in the fourth. In the second half, with Phoenix threatening, he calmly sank 13 in a row. The allegedly “imperfect” superstar who walked into the game shooting 55 percent from the line in these playoffs wound up hitting 17 of 19 shots, just a hair under 90 percent. 

It was like watching Superman wake up and ask for a delicious bowl of Kryptonite.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo, the King of Wisconsin Wed, 21 Jul 2021 08:00:00 +0100-Eight years ago, Giannis Antetokounmpo was an 18-year-old rookie who had barely spent any time outside of Greece. Today, he is a two-time MVP and newly …


NBA Finals 2021: The evolution of Giannis Antetokounmpo, from little known prospect to an NBA champion

The evolution of Giannis into an NBA champion (1:50)

Relive Giannis Antetokounmpo's road to an NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks, which started as a 12-year-old in Greece. (1:50)

MILWAUKEE — With 19.8 seconds left in Game 6 of the 2021 NBA Finals, Giannis Antetokounmpo walked down the floor alone, arms spread, smile wide. He implored the home crowd in Milwaukee to boost its exuberance even more. In a few short moments, he'd lead a celebration 50 years in the making, as the Bucks' clinched the 2021 NBA title with a 105-98 victory.

Few achievements can eclipse a 50-point masterpiece in a close-out win for a championship. With Antetokounmpo's performance on Tuesday night, he can now claim his rightful place in the pantheon of NBA legends.

The Game 6 win exhibited the full breadth of his extraordinary game. For 42 minutes, he knifed through the Phoenix defense and assaulted the rim. A 6-foot-11 force with innumerable skills, he controlled the glass like a center and handled the ball like a point guard. An elite All-NBA defender, he swatted away five shots and spent much of the fourth quarter on Chris Paul. And then there were the free throws. Those free throws. In the signature game of his career, he exorcised his most persistent demon, draining 17 of his 19 attempts from the line.

For his efforts, just three weeks after suffering a hyperextension of his left knee, Antetokounmpo won Finals MVP. He joins Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players in NBA history to win that award, regular-season MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.

Most of all, the title culminates a remarkable journey that started in the modest Athens neighborhood of Sepolia as the child of Nigerian immigrants. A child whose first love was soccer, Antetokounmpo didn't start playing basketball until he was 12 years old and competed in Greece's second-tier league just one season before he landed in Milwaukee as the No. 15 pick in the 2013 draft — an obscure prospect scouted by only a handful of NBA teams.

Eight years later, he's a champion.

Here are eight stories that capture the astonishing rise of Giannis Antetokounmpo.

An uneven season, but signs of limitless potential

A few weeks after he concluded his rookie season with the Bucks in 2014, Antetokounmpo strolled through the buffet at Mandalay Bay filling up his plate. Las Vegas Summer League is one of the first rites of passage for incoming rookies and second-year players who still need some polishing, and the 19-year-old Antetokounmpo was getting additional reps after an uneven first season.

With his impossibly long arms, Antetokounmpo reached over an entire row of side dishes and scooped up some mashed potatoes from the far side of the buffet, then folded his 6-foot-10 frame into a table. The previous night against the Utah Jazz, Antetokounmpo assumed point guard duties for the Bucks' summer league squad. Though he appeared on only one of 100 Rookie of the Year ballots — a single third-place vote — Antetokounmpo tantalized the Bucks with flashes of jaw-dropping physical skills and the faint outlines of what could be a complete do-it-all star.

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– July 21, 2021
Giannis Antetokounmpo the King of Wisconsin
NBA Finals, Milwaukee Bucks, Bucks

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