Brilliant. Legendary. Historic. Incredible. Ridiculous.
There are a lot more adjectives I could use to describe what we saw from Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 6—or hell, during the entire NBA Finals. But after the Greek Freak authored one of the single greatest performances the Association has ever seen, or may ever see in a Finals close-out game, doing justice to just how mesmerizing it was watching Antetokounmpo lead the Bucks to their first title in 50 years ain’t easy.
A line like the one he put up—50 points, 14 boards, 5 blocks, 17-of-19 from the free throw line—is something you’re supposed to see in a video game, not from a guy with such noted struggles from the charity stripe carrying the weight of a city and a franchise on his broad shoulders in a pressure-packed situation. Yet after witnessing what the Greek Freak did, almost single-handedly beating the Suns by pouring in 47.6 percent of Milwaukee’s points Thursday, let’s forget all those adjectives for a minute and start referring to Antetokounmpo, the no-brainer NBA Finals MVP, by the most appropriate noun I can think of.
Are you seriously going to argue otherwise? If you’re known by the company you keep then, yes, Antetokounmpo has a new god flow.
He’s the 7th player in Finals history to score 50, joining NBA royalty like LeBron James, Jerry West, and Elgin Baylor.
He became the third player in NBA history with two MVPs and a Finals MVP by age 26, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Tim Duncan in that exclusive club.
He’s now the third player in NBA history to earn an MVP, a Defensive Player of the Year award, and Finals MVP, joining the likes of Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.
He just became just the second player in NBA history to win an MVP, DPOY, All-Star MVP, and Finals MVP, joining MJ.
He’s the second player to score 40 points and grab 10 boards in three games in the Finals since Shaquille O’Neal did it in 2000.
Basketball Reference tweeted that it doesn’t have an individual playoff performance in its database equal to Antetokounmpo’s Game 6.
Oh, there are way more stats and historical notes I could dig up to paint how other-worldly Antetokounmpo was during the Finals, but hopefully you get the point. When your name is mentioned in the same sentence as LeBron, Shaq, Hakeem, and MJ—and you did what you just did when the lights were brightest and you probably weren’t even close to 100 percent healthy—immortal sounds right.
Whether it was his drive, his defense, his perseverance, or his moxie, it was beyond special watching Antetokounmpo will the Bucks to victory over the Suns. And he did it on a knee that couldn’t have been 100 percent. It’s nuts to think back a few weeks ago when these Finals started with Antetokounmpo’s status completely up in the air. The worry was his horribly hyperextended knee, suffered in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Hawks, would force him to miss a few Finals games. Right after the injury, Antetokounmpo actually admitted he thought his season was done.
He was in the starting lineup for Game 1 but didn’t quite look like peak Greek Freak. And while the Bucks weren’t at their best during the first two games of the Finals, Antetokounmpo started wowing us in Game 2 when he dropped a game-high 42. Game 3 saw him drop 41. Game 4 gave us the second greatest block in NBA Finals history when that absurd play may have saved Milwaukee from going down 3-1, practically a death sentence in the Finals. Then came Game 6, his masterpiece, when he scored 33 of his 50 points in the second half. It’s worthy of consideration for the greatest performance in Finals history. If your eyes tell you otherwise go get them checked.
Sure, Antetokounmpo isn’t the prettiest basketball player, often bulldozing his way to the basket since he lacks a velvety jump shot—I’m sure he’ll continue to drive us mad launching those threes he still struggles to knock down. At 26, after only 14 years of actually playing basketball, he’s still a work in progress. He has busted his ass off to transform from that skinny kid nobody knew about in the 2013 NBA Draft to be a two-time MVP and on the short list of the game’s best players. He’s a defensive genius who will be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate for years to come. He’s one of the game’s good dudes. His teammates adore him. He’s incredibly loyal to his adopted American city, Milwaukee. He didn’t have to sign that massive extension this past offseason, but did because he felt like he was building something, that the job was unfinished, and that the best was yet to come.
“Coming back, I was like, this is my city. They trust me. They believe in me. They believe in us,” Antetokounmpo said after Game 6. “It’s easy to go somewhere and go win a championship with somebody else. It’s easy. I could go to a super team and just do my part and win a championship. But this is the hard way to do it and this is the way to do it and we did it. We did it, man.”
So, on the morning after said masterpiece, miss me with any Antetokounmpo slander. He does it differently, but god damn did he dramatically deliver a championship to Milwaukee Tuesday night via 42 minutes of brilliant basketball that I wish I could describe more eloquently. Because of it, the Greek Freak became a basketball deity. Pray for those that don’t respect or appreciate his greatness.