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Giannis, So Much Respect | Other Thoughts From 2021 NBA Finals

It's so hard not to fall under all of the good feelings that is the Milwaukee Bucks recent NBA championship. I'm sure that you've read, heard, or have thought for yourself all of the redeeming qualities and narratives that have sprung from this story - most notably the validation in the small market organization that prospers through organic acquisitions and a superstar that felt it was important to make the road his own. Or as we have come to call it, "not take the easy way via a super team". 

I too fall under the spell of that love for the story - all of it. Including the appreciation and gravity pull to the journey of a kid with a humbled and underprivileged past who now shares NBA Championship memories and bragging opportunities with his brothers. Three brothers in the NBA! Take a bow Moma and Poppa Antetokounmpo!!


For me, it was the moment after the buzzer sounded, he hugged his family, and teammates then sat on the baseline seats - the expensive ones that I'm sure he never thought was possible for a poor Nigerian kid from Greece. He just took in the moment. This is not a knock on anyone else, as all athletes are apt to celebrate that moment however they feel. But, maybe it's just me. Maybe it was the ponderer in me that resonated from and in that moment as Giannis sat down with a fresh NBA championship cap atop his head, and stared out at what was going on. 

That moment for himself. That moment of accomplishment. That moment of humility. That moment of extreme gratification, authentic acceptance, and genuine validation from the process, was what made witnessing that championship win for the Milwaukee Bucks so awesome. 

We all have those moments in life. It may not be as grandeur as winning the NBA Championship, and sometimes we simply miss or pass over the opportunity to sit courtside of the situation and watch the journey unfold. But we have them. And we need to a

Giannis Antentokounmpo allowed us in. Like very few athletes over the years. 

It was special. And it was so easy to fall in love with the moment. 

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Here are a few other thoughts on the NBA Finals and the Milwaukee Bucks winning the NBA Championship: 

- Giannis' game 6 performance of 50 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 blocks are damn near video-game-like numbers. Of course, Giannis does that in NBA 2k as well. Even more impressive is his final line for the series - averaging 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.8 blocks, and 1.2 steals. Absolutely amazing. 

- I too can't wait for Drake to mention Giannis in his next song. Giannis is the easy option, I'm hoping he drops a bar rhyming Antetokounmpo. You wanna talk about solidifying legacies? 

- My last thought on Giannis is that it does seem he isn't within the "inner circle" of superstars in the league. However, upon hearing his comments at the podium after winning, and not doing it the "the easy way" was refreshing. It was nice to hear an NBA superstar acknowledge the "super teams" and the recruiting that happens. 

I have no problem with free agency and going with other players (it's been done so many times. However, I do find the "forcing your way out" to be a huge unsatisfying detractor. 

- Can we finally acknowledge Khris Middleton? I say this all the time, we herald "superstars" around this league too often and too quickly based upon highlights and pushed (sometimes fabricated) narratives. Middleton is a dude that at one time was in the G-League and now finds himself as a proven closer for the Bucks, with a track record of having done it on the game's biggest stage. 

- Jrue Holiday is soooooooooo incredibly strong. His impact on this series is not measured in the box score. Just ask Chris Paul. 

- By the way, TONS OF CREDIT to the Milwaukee Bucks organization. The players get so much of the blame for the player movement around the league, however, we never place the focus on organizations not doing their part to make the most of a player's supreme talent (Hello: Los Angeles Angels and Mike Trout). The Bucks helped develop and cultivate a G-League Talent in Middleton, helped a budding megastar in Antentokounpo reach his potential, and acquired pieces to surround them (Holiday, Lopez, Portis Jr., Tucker, etc...) to go get it done. That's a model blueprint not just for small market teams, but all organizations. 

- Stop with the "everyone was hurt" hate on the Bucks winning. Everyone deals with injuries at this time. So did the Bucks. You play who is in front of you. That is part of the grind. Stop hating. Show some appreciation. 

- How do you not feel for Chris Paul? He's an example of just how incredibly hard it is to win an NBA championship. And yes, even without a championship, the dude is an all-time great. Miss me with that "but he never won" stuff. 

- I do agree that not all championship rings are the same. I'm not going to get on my high horse and devalue anyone's championship. Again, earning it all is HARD. However, I would agree that some rings are more special than others. LeBron's Cleveland Cavalier championship (and even his recent Lakers championship) are more synonymous with his stature than the two championships in Miami. That's just an example. 

With that said, I do hope more stars stay in their markets, it's only better for the competition of the league. However, let's not also ignore the fact that super teams are fun - to root against, and for ratings. That's been proven. 

- It's crazy to think Coach Mark Budenholzer was a mere inch away from being fired. That inch being the one-size too big shoe of Kevin Durant that he likes to wear while playing. 

I still haven't gotten over that Game 7 between the Bucks and Nets. 

- When the Suns played the Knicks this year, I was taken back by just how good the Suns were. I know, they're playing my Knicks...however, they have tremendous length and wing play that will surely make them a favorite to be in the mix again next year. 

- Mikal Bridges is an amazing swiss army knife on the wing. A fun player who I believe hasn't reached his potential. 

- Devin Booker, man. Devin Booker...bright, bright, bright future. 

- Random, but needed to be said - bring back the old NBA Finals script logo on the court and for graphics. Yeah, I sound like one of those oldies complaining about the way it used to be, but in this case, the way it used to be was so much better. 

- How did I forget to mention the block - THE BLOCK!! Short of LeBron's backboard smasher on a running Andre Iguodala, this might have been the most impressive block I've seen on the NBA Finals stage. 

- Brook Lopez getting a ring is the kind of thing sports is built on. Love it. 

- How can you not enjoy PJ Tucker playing basketball? Despite his sick shoe game which is always a must-watch, the dude is lunchpail personified. 

- The Deer District is absolutely impressive. Paraphrasing the words Michael Scott regarding inside jokes, "I hope to be a part of something like that someday". 

My apologies if you don't get The Office references - you're missing out. 

- I read somewhere that Malika Andrews, who covered the NBA Finals from the sidelines, is 26 years old. 26!! She was phenomenal, and quite frankly, has a bright future for herself going forward. 

I'm aware there is the elephant in the room that is Rachel Nichols following that thought...ah well. 

I will say this - such an unfortunate situation. 

- I won't get caught up in the ratings for the Finals. The final numbers are that it is up 32% from last year's Finals which was an all-time low for the stage. However, what sport didn't see a major drop in numbers during a horrific time in history? The Finals in September was odd. 

As odd as The NBA Finals in July. I don't mind, but I just don't see many casuals tuning in to Bucks/Suns in July. But of course, their loss! 

Also - how many of us fans watched these games in another way besides the traditional cable box? 

A second "Also" -  miss me with the "I won't watch because it's 'woke'" chatter. 

Stop.

Fortunately, the league returns back to its normal schedule this upcoming season. 

- Mike Breen remains my favorite play-by-play broadcaster in life. I seriously hear him inside my head yelling BAAAAANNNNNNGGGGGGGG!!! when I balance a budget sheet or send an important e-mail. I know....I know...

And finally,

- This was a remarkable season pulled off by the NBA. Of all the leagues operating since the pandemic period began in March 2020, I have found the most entertainment and enjoyment from the NBA product. Again, just my opinion. 

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