By Rina Weaver
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, also known as Lew Alcindor, led the Milwaukee Bucks to their first championship half a century ago. It was the franchise’s first time winning a championship in decades… until this year, that is. The Bucks polished off their return to prominence. They’re headed once again by a behemoth with exceptional skill, led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, a 26-year-old player known as the Greek Freak. Milwaukee beat the Phoenix Suns 105-98 in Game 6 of the NBA finals on its home court to capture its second championship and cap off a tough NBA season marred by injuries and coronavirus pandemic interruptions. Antetokounmpo had one of the best final performances in NBA history, scoring 50 points and grabbing 14 rebounds, a playoff career record. Antetokounmpo used a variety of spin moves and brute effort to get to the hoop, and he was practically flawless from the free-throw line, where he has previously struggled. On the defensive end, he was a force to be reckoned with, blocking five shots. By the time the final buzzer sounded, it was clear who would be crowned the series’ most valuable player. Not to be counted out, The Suns fought back in the second half to keep the game close. Phoenix’s 36-year-old point guard Chris Paul finished with 26 points. The Suns’ scoring dynamo, Devin Booker, struggled, scoring 19 points out of his 22 shots. As a veteran All-Star in his 16th season, still striving for his elusive championship, Paul’s defeat was especially painful. Antetokounmpo, a two-time winner of the league’s Most Valuable Player Award, reached the pinnacle of a historic ascension with the team’s victory. He had been picked outside of the top 14 picks in the NBA draft, a grouping known as “the lottery” that is regarded as a harbinger of potential stardom. Since then, he’s established himself as one of the team’s greatest players. It helped that Milwaukee took a chance and traded for Jrue Holiday, a fan-favorite, versatile player without the All-Star credentials. The Bucks delivered a package to New Orleans that included many veterans and draft picks, which is usually reserved for a true superstar. Holiday supplied Antetokounmpo with solid support on both sides of the ball when the Bucks needed it most, most notably with a 27-point, 13-assist performance in Game 5 of the series. An emotional Antetokounmpo embraced former Bucks player Brandon Jennings after the buzzer went off. Jennings played in the NBA from 2009 to 2018 and was briefly Antetokounmpo’s teammate. In a 2013 playoff series, it was Jennings who famously prophesied that Milwaukee would beat the talented Miami Heat in six games. The grossly wrong prediction has turned into a rallying cry for Milwaukee fans, and Jennings has become seen as something of a cult figure. Throughout the game, fans chanted, “Bucks in six!” The cheers were thunderous after the game, as spectators were ecstatic that Jennings’ prophecy had finally come true.