Sports | July 21, 2021 12:13 pm

Giannis Antetokounmpo Makes a Case for the One-Man Superteam

The 26-year-old was a one-man wrecking crew in the NBA Finals

Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo before defeating the Phoenix Suns to win the 2021 NBA Finals.
Justin Casterline/Getty I

Instead of joining them, he beat ’em. All of ’em.

Drafted by a team that won 15 games when he was a rookie, Giannis Antetokounmpo had an option to hit free agency during the upcoming NBA offseason and would have had every team in the league begging to give him a max contract for his services. Instead, the 26-year-old chose to re-sign a supermax deal with the Bucks and stay in Milwaukee.

Now, after 16 wins this postseason including last night’s 105-98 win over the Suns, the Bucks are champions for the first time in 50 years and Antetokounmpo is the reigning NBA Finals MVP.

It’s an award he clearly deserves after going for 50 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots on Tuesday night to finish his six-game finals run with averages of 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game while shooting 61.8% from the field. Shooting just 55.6% from the line in the postseason heading into last night, Antetokounmpo hit 17-of-19 free throws and silenced many of his detractors in the process.

After the win, Antetokounmpo discussed his choice to remain in Milwaukee instead of skipping town to form a superteam in a market like LA, Brooklyn or Miami as others may have done.

“Obviously I wanted to get the job done,” he said. “That’s my stubborn side. It’s easy to go somewhere and go win a championship with somebody else. It’s easy … I could go to a superteam and just do my part and win a championship. But this is the hard way to do it and this is the way to do it and we did it, fucking did it. We did it, man.”

He said “we,” and he did have help, most notably from Khris Middleton, but the reality is that Antetokounmpo almost singlehandedly won the championship for Milwaukee, and the Bucks would have had no shot of winning the Finals without him. In this age of NBA stars forming teams to go on title runs, Antetokounmpo was able to shine all the way to a ring all by himself.

As big as the championship is for Antetokounmpo as an individual, it is even more valuable for the Bucks as an organization. When the Greek Freak was drafted 15th overall in the 2013 NBA draft, the Bucks were valued at $312 million. Now, less than a decade later, the franchise is valued at $1.86 billion, moving the Bucks from the NBA’s least-valuable team (30th) to 15th. Also, per Huddle Up, the Bucks are now a top-five team in merchandise sales and Antetokounmpo accounts for more jersey sales than anyone in the NBA not named LeBron James.

Now that Antetokounmpo is a champion, that number, like Milwaukee’s stock in the league, will rise.