LeBron James. Kevin Durant. James Harden. Many NBA players have left their original team to join forces with other stars to pursue a title.
Giannis Antetokounmpo would not let that be his legacy.
Instead of leaving when times were tough, Antetokounmpo persevered, and it paid off. The “Greek Freak” secured the Larry O’Brien Trophy for his Milwaukee Bucks after a 105-98 Game 6 win over the Suns.
“I couldn’t leave. There was a job that had to be finished,” Antetokounmpo said. “I feel like the bubble did not pay us justice. Give credit to the Miami Heat. They played great, but it did not pay us justice. Everybody was feeling homesick. We are a family-oriented team, wanted to see our families. But coming back, I was like, ‘This is my city. They trust me. They believe in me. They believe in us.’ Even when we lost … obviously I wanted to get the job done.
“But 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 — I don’t want to put anybody on the spot — but I could go to a super team 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.”
Last season, the Bucks fell to the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs. The loss ignited trade rumors and a blurry future for the two-time MVP. At the time, the star only had one year on his contract, and many teams were gearing up for the summer sweepstakes.
Eventually, Antetokounmpo met with the Bucks’ brass and signed a five-year, $228M supermax extension. Now, he is an NBA champion.
Back in 2014, Antetokounmpo tweeted that he would never leave the Bucks until they win a championship. That dream came to fruition, and he can leave Milwaukee peacefully if he so chooses.
“I’m out now. Can I leave now?” Antetokounmopo said jokingly after winning his first championship. “I want a trade. Who do I have to talk to about a trade?”