Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the Bucks to the 2021 NBA championship, culminating in a 50-point series clinching performance in Game 6, answered every possible question about his abilities to lead a team in the playoffs. After the early exit in the Bubble in 2020, Antetokounmpo faced the same critiques about how he wasn’t as efficient or impactful in the postseason when teams built a wall in front of him and Milwaukee’s shooters around him weren’t hitting shots.
Many wondered if Giannis would sign his supermax or give himself the chance to leave Milwaukee this summer by entering free agency, but Antetokounmpo put pen to paper and alleviated all the stress of Bucks fans and the organization for at least the moment. To then go on to win the championship in his first season after signing was something that felt like not just a win for the Bucks, but an important moment for smaller markets around the league to show that stars can stay home and win without having to go team up with another star.
Giannis himself talked about that after Game 6, talking about how he could’ve taken the “easy way” by joining a superteam but chose to do what he promised to do, which is do everything he could to bring Milwaukee a championship. On Monday night, Giannis was still reveling in his win and that he didn’t have to chase that elusive ring to another city with a not so subtle string of photos on his Instagram story of four legends who won their first championship with the team that drafted them with the caption “Mood.”
giannis really gets it bruh pic.twitter.com/rlqovejlcy
— Jamal Cristopher (@Clippers24seven) July 27, 2021
Antetokounmpo is going to rightfully talk his talk and posting Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Kobe Bryant is quite the message about how he feels about getting things done in Milwaukee.
While many felt this was a signal to others that staying in a place rather than bolting for a superteam can pay off, the Bucks also had to show their commitment to Giannis by going all-in on a championship push this past summer with their trade for Jrue Holiday. The lesson can’t be that players should be blindly loyal, but that it is possible, with a financial commitment from a “small market” team (they’re all owned by billionaires), that you can build a championship team around an elite player no matter where you are.