MILWAUKEE – Eight years ago, a skinny teenager stood between his parents on the Bradley Center court and looked up at the rafters, where the retired jerseys of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson hung.
“Maybe in 15 years, 20 years,” said the young man, “maybe my name is next to Kareem, Oscar Robertson.
“I hope to be there.”
That young man was Giannis Antetokounmpo, recently drafted 15th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2013 NBA draft. And on Tuesday night, with more than 80,000 people packed into and around the Fiserv Forum, Antetokounmpo capped a spectacular NBA final with a legendary performance to do what, until now, only Abdul-Jabbar and Robertson had done: lead the Bucks to a title.
Behind 50 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks from their superstar forward, the Bucks held off the Phoenix Suns, winning 105-98 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to capture the franchise’s first championship in half a century. . They did it in front of a crazy packed crowd of over 17,000 fans inside the Fiserv Forum, along with a remarkable 65,000 more fans huddled in the “Deer District” surrounding the building.
Antetokounmpo won the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award.
In the next few years, 10 times as many people will likely say they made the trip to downtown Milwaukee to witness Antetokounmpo put on one of the best closing performances in sports history to take the Bucks to the promised land.
His 50 points tied for the most all-time in a closing game of the NBA Finals, according to ESPN Stats & Info, matching Bob Pettit’s 50 points for the St. Louis Hawks at home in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. 1958 NBA Finals against the Celtics.
Milwaukee came to its first title 50 years ago behind two members of the inner circle of all-time greats: Abdul-Jabbar and Robertson. The two players who led Milwaukee to its second championship, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, couldn’t have had a more different path to the top of basketball mountain.