As the final seconds passed before Milwaukee won the NBA Finals, Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t think about his incredible performance but instead reflected on his incredible journey from poverty to champion.
“When I got into the league, I didn’t know where my next meal would come from. My mother used to sell stuff in the streets, ”recalls Antetokounmpo. “Now I’m here sitting on top of the top. I am extremely blessed. I hope this can give everyone, Africa, Europe, hope that it can be done. I want them to believe in their dreams. “
The 26-year-old Greek forward of Nigerian descent scored 50 points, tying the highest total in a closing game in NBA history, to trigger the Milwaukee Bucks against Phoenix 105-98 on Tuesday for their first crown in NBA history. half a century.
He also had 14 rebounds, five blocked shots, dominant defensive moves and even a showing 17 for 19 free throw in an iconic masterpiece effort for the ages.
“It’s been a long journey. I did everything, I did everything I could just to be in this position,” Antetokounmpo said. “I did everything. Tonight is what I had to do. I had to do a bit of everything. I had to defend, I had to bounce, I had to block. “
With 65,000 people cheering in the streets outside the arena and another 20,000 shouting inside, Antetokounmpo took home the NBA Finals MVP honors.
“I never thought I’d be 26 with my team in the NBA Finals. I never thought I would be sitting here. We have come a long way, ”he said.
“I started playing basketball just to help my family. I tried to get them out of the struggle, the challenges we faced when we were kids. “
Antetokounmpo wants to inspire young people who have grown up in difficult times like him.
“It should make every person, every child, anyone in the world to believe in their dreams – no matter how you feel when you’re depressed, when you don’t think it’s going to happen to you or you don’t.” you might not do in your career – just believe in what you’re doing and keep working, ”he said.
“Don’t let anyone tell you what you can be and what you can’t do. People have told me I can’t do free throws. I did my free throws tonight and I’m a fucking champion. “
He is the only player in NBA history with five NBA All-Star and All-NBA selections, one final and two MVP of the season awards and the best defenseman awards before turning 27.
Only four previous players born outside the United States had won the MVP award of the final – Hakeem Olajuwon, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki.
Antetokounmpo credited former coach Jason Kidd with developing parts of his game other than scoring and current Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer teaching him to trust his teammates in order to build a championship squad. .
He is already thinking of a repeat of the title in 2022.
“It’s an addicting feeling. These are the times that I want to chase. I want the team to build on this and I hope we can do it again, ”Antetokounmpo said.
“It’s going to be a quick turnaround. We’re going to be back and a lot of people are going to sue us and we have to be ready for that. “
He recalled how the late Kobe Bryant challenged him to be the MVP in 2017 and he did so two years later, only for Bryant to say he should win the title, which he did. two years later.
“He made me believe,” Antetokounmpo said. “Kobe Bryant thinks I can do it and I can play at a high level and build my team and earn my MVP?” I had to do it. I had to work hard. To be able to accomplish these things, it’s crazy. It’s unreal. It’s unreal. I can not believe it.”