Giannis Antetokounmpo ended one of the greatest NBA Finals ever with 50 points and a championship Milwaukee waited 50 years to win again.
Antetokounmpo added 14 rebounds and five blocked shots as the Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns 105-98 on July 20 to win the series 4-2. 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.
He shot 16 for 25 from the field and made an unbelievable 17-of-19 free throws — a spectacular showing for any shooter, let alone one who was hitting just 55.6% in the postseason and was ridiculed for it at times.
He hopped around the court waving his arms with 20 seconds remaining to encourage fans to cheer, but there was no need. Their voices had been booming inside and outside for hours by then, having waited 50 years to celebrate a winner after Lew Alcindor — before becoming Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — and Oscar Robertson led the Bucks to the championship in 1971.
In a season played played largely without fans, the Bucks had 65,000 of them packed into the Deer District outside, a wild party that figured to last deep into the Midwestern night. The party wasn’t bad inside, either: Confetti rained down inside as fans chanted “Bucks in 6! Bucks in 6!” — a hopeful boast by former player that turned out to be a prophetic rallying cry.
The Bucks became the fifth team to win the NBA Finals after trailing 2-0 and the first to do it by winning the next four games since Miami against Dallas in 2006.
Chris Paul scored 26 points to end his first NBA Finals appearance in his 16th season. Devin Booker added 19 points but shot just 8 for 22 and missed all seven 3-pointers after scoring 40 points in each of the last two games.
The teams that came into the NBA together as expansion clubs in 1968 delivered a fine finals, with the last three games all in the balance deep into the fourth quarter. The Bucks won them largely because of Antetokounmpo, a two-time MVP in the regular season who raised his game even higher in the finals and was voted the NBA Finals MVP.
He was the star of these finals in every way, from his powerful play on the court to his humble thoughts in interviews to even taking time after the win to find children to high-five amid the celebrations. And he did it all after missing the final two games of the Eastern Conference finals with a hyperextended left knee, an injury that at first he feared could be serious to end his season.