Fifty years. Fifty points.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was legendary. He even hit his free throws.
The Greek Freak wasn’t going to be denied. The 6-foot-11 locomotive saved his best for last as he single-handedly carried the Bucks to their first NBA championship in 50 years Tuesday with 50 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks and a spectacular-for-him showing from the free-throw line.
And when it was over, there were tears in Antetokounmpo’s eyes as he celebrated this 105-98 Game 6 victory over Phoenix.
It was eight years in the making since the Bucks selected the skinny Greek kid with the 15th pick of the 2013 draft. A two-time MVP now has an NBA Finals MVP for his war chest after becoming the seventh player to reach the 50-point mark in a Finals game.
He lifted coach Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer in the air. On the podium, Antetokounmpo hugged co-star Khris Middleton and screamed “We f—–g did it’’ — the first championship ceremony for the Bucks since 1971.
His free-throw shooting an albatross all playoffs, Antetokounmpo made 17 of 19 from the foul line in the biggest game of his career. He posted three 40-point-plus games in the Finals.
“People told me I can’t make free throws,’’ Antetokounmpo said in the postgame press conference in which he choked up. “I made my free throws tonight and I’m a freaking champion. … I wanted it so bad. If I never sit at this table again, I’m fine with it.’’
Antetokounmpo held the NBA championship trophy in his left arm and the Bill Russell MVP silverware in his right. He invoked his brother, Thanasis — his Bucks teammate who was out because of COVID-19 protocols — at the start of his press conference.
“I never thought ever I’d be 26 years old playing in the NBA Finals — not even just winning — and hold these two [trophies],’’ Antetokounmpo said.
“It’s easy to go to somewhere and win a championship somewhere else. I could to a superteam and do my part and win a championship. But this is the hard way to do it and we did it. We f—–g did it.’’
Then he kissed the two trophies.
“It’s hard to find more words to describe what Giannis does,’’ Budenholzer said. “But the way he made his free throws, the way he did everything, stepped up, the poise, the confidence, the leadership. We say we want Giannis to get to the free throw line. We believe. We talked about it this past summer. To win a championship, you’ve got to make free throws. He made free throws. He’s off the charts.’’
His improbable sidekick on this night was ex-Knick Bobby Portis, who added 16 points off the bench on a night Middleton (17 points) and Jrue Holiday (12 points) weren’t at the top of their offensive games.
For Phoenix, the loss meant Chris Paul, 36, didn’t get his first ring nor did the Suns earn their first title. Now Phoenix has decisions to make about Paul’s future as he has an opt-out clause he reportedly may exercise.
“This one will hurt for a while,’’ Paul said. “Everyone in that locker room knew we had enough, but it wasn’t enough.’’
Paul had a strong game (26 points), but sidekick Devin Booker looked less than confident most of the night and put forth a 19-point, five-turnover, 0-for-7-from-3 clunker. His wide-open 3-point miss with 56 seconds left and the Suns down six sealed the Bucks’ title.
Game 6 was played before 17,000 at Fiserv Forum and an estimated 60,000-plus jubilant fans outside in the expanded Deer District watching on banks of giant video screens.
The season started with no fans in Milwaukee. The theatrics were a fitting end to a pandemic season that, considering everything, went as smoothly as could have been expected.
The Suns led by five at intermission despite a big half from Antetokounmpo, who poured in 17 points. His highlight came when he blocked Mikal Bridges’ drive and scored a layup in transition.
In the third quarter, the Bucks rallied to take the lead as Antetokonmpo took over, scoring 10 of their first 14 points. He finished with 20 in the period. Early in the fourth, Antetokounmpo fought off two defenders, muscling his way for a runner that missed. But he powered up and grabbed the ball for the putback.
Budenholzer decided against rolling with the Greek Freak for the entire second half. When he rested, the Suns climbed back and knotted the score at 77 entering the fourth quarter. Antetokounmpo had 37 going into the final period.
“There was a job that had to be finished,’’ Antetokounmpo said. “I wanted to get the job done.’’