Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 50 points on Tuesday night to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA Championship in 50 years. Only six other players have scored 50 points or more in the NBA Finals. Only one other player has done it to clinch the title: Bob Petit had 50 in 1958 to win it all for the (then) St. Louis Hawks.
Led by two-time league MVP Antetokounmpo, the Bucks dominated the early part of the game, rocking the Phoenix Suns back on their heels from the outset. But Suns’ floor general Chris Paul led his team on a run that had Phoenix back in the lead by halftime.
Antetokounmpo took over in the 3rd, going for 20 points in the period, a single-quarter feat of force no other player has achieved in the Finals since Michael Jordan did it 28 years ago. Antetokounmpo ended the game with 50 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks and — possibly most remarkable for him — made 17 of his 19 free throws. The final score was 104-98. Bucks in 6.
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It was a sweet victory for Milwaukee, who got to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in front of their home crowd, tens of thousands of whom crowded outside Fiserv Forum to witness the win together on big screens.
In fact, while Fiserv holds 17,000, Bucks president Peter Feigin said the team had made room for up to 65,000 in the 30-acre “Deer District” surrounding the stadium. And just before tip off, it looked pretty well packed.
The Deer District right before tip!
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The fans’ show of loyalty was commensurate to the Bucks’ efforts. In Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals this year, Antetokounmpo left the game after twisting his left knee during an awkward landing. In a 2020-2021 campaign that followed a shortened offseason, NBA fans have seen superstar after superstar plagued by similar season-ending injuries. But Antetokounmpo came back for the next game looking like he’d never been injured.
Then, after falling down 2-0 to Phoenix in the Finals, the Bucks gathered themselves and won 4 straight to take home the trophy.
The Bucks’ last — and only other championship — came in 1971, when they were led by another all-time great big man named Lou Alcindor, who later became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. After three more seasons Abdul-Jabbar went to the Lakers.
Antetokounmpo could have done the same thing after three seasons with the Bucks. He could have left small market Milwaukee for the bright lights of L.A. or New York, but he stayed a Buck and signed a new contract in 2016. In 2020, he redoubled his commitment and signed a $228 million agreement, declaring in a Twitter post, “This is my home, this is my city.” There was little doubt about that on Tuesday night.