The Los Angeles Lakers’ reign as champions of the NBA came to an end on Tuessday night with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks defeating the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to win the franchise’s first championship since 1971.
Antetokounmpo was outstanding in the clincher, putting up 50 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks to cap off one of the most historic playoff runs of all time.
Winning a championship is something that Antetokounmpo worked hard to accomplish after originally coming onto the scene as a relatively unknown player out of Greece.
The former two-time MVP has suffered some heartbreaking defeats in the playoffs the last few years but now was finally able to get over the hump, establishing a growing legacy as one of the best to ever play the game.
One person who saw the potential in Antetokounmpo was Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, who issued him a challenge to win MVP back in 2017. Then when he accomplished that, Bryant issued another challenge of winning a championship that is now fulfilled:
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) June 25, 2019
After winning his first career championship, Antetokounmpo spoke to how much Bryant’s encouragement meant to him.
“It means a lot. It started almost like a joke at first. It was a challenge to players, and I was like, let me just shoot my shot, kind of like, what’s my challenge, and he was like MVP. But at first I was, like, joking. I didn’t think he was going to respond to me,” Antetokounmpo said.
“But when he did, he made me believe. I’m like, Kobe Bryant thinks I can do this and I can play at a high level and build my team and win my MVP? I had to do it. I had to work hard. And to not necessarily let him down. I had to work hard because people believed that I can do it. That’s the thing. I’m a people pleaser. I don’t like letting people down. I don’t like — when I signed with the city of Milwaukee, that’s the main reason I signed because I didn’t want to let the people down and think that I didn’t work extremely hard for them, which I do. But to be able to accomplish those things, it’s crazy. It’s unreal. It’s freaking unreal. I can’t believe it.”
What makes Antetokounmpo so great is not only his physical gifts but also his mental capacity and work ethic, proving time and time again that he deserves all of the success that comes his way.
Bryant recognized that earlier than most and there’s no doubt that he would have been proud to see Antetokounmpo hoist that trophy out after one of the most dominant performances in recent memory.
Antwtokounmpo appreciative of James being at Game 5
Going back one game, current Lakers star LeBron James was in attendance for Game 5 in Phoenix, and that was also something Antetokounmpo appreciated from another player he grew up watching and idolizing.
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