The Book of Giannis: A catalog of Antetokounmpo's best plays with the Milwaukee Bucks
Updated: The Book of Giannis now includes his self-assisted alley-oop dunk off the backboard against the Boston Celtics on May 1, 2022.
The Book of Giannis endured a shock to the system in 2021. Suddenly, a jump over Tim Hardaway has gone from the highlight in Giannis Antetokounmpo's career to a nice top-10 memory.
With his singular performance in the 2021 NBA Finals, a catalog of his best plays in a Milwaukee Bucks uniform will be top-heavy with snapshots from those six games. We've upped the full list from 26 (matching his age at the time of his title) to a nice round 30.
From highlight-reel dunks to game-winning plays and just a general unreal athleticism, Giannis is the face of the franchise, and here are the most thrilling plays on his résumé.
1. The 50 for 50 (July 20, 2021)
A mere three weeks removed from an injury that looked like it would end his playoffs (and perhaps longer), Giannis was accepting the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP award and hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy. The Bucks had won their first title in 50 years, and Giannis had scored a playoff career-high 50 points in one of the finest Finals performances ever. His Game 6 effort against the Suns included an uncharacteristically brilliant 17-of-19 showing at the free-throw line. In the same season he signed a Supermax extension to stay in Milwaukee, he brought a title to the only franchise he'd known and capped it with his signature performance.
2. The Valley Oop (July 17, 2021)
Needing a road win in the series, the Bucks took a 3-2 lead over Phoenix in the NBA Finals on the road, even though the Suns had a possession in the final 20 seconds with a chance to take the lead. But Jrue Holiday stole the ball from Devin Booker, glided the other direction and threw a stunning alley-oop to Giannis, who finished the slam and drew a foul. Milwaukee won the game, 123-119.
3. The block (July 14, 2021)
On the biggest stage possible, he made an unforgettable play to help preserve a tenuous Bucks lead. Down 2-1 in the series to the Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee pulled away for a 109-103 win at Fiserv Forum, and the block was a big reason why.
Somehow able to surge to the basket from the free-throw line as Devin Booker rolled an alley-oop into the air, Giannis flew in to block Deandre Ayton and interrupt the finish with 1:14 to go. The Bucks had rallied to lead by 2 points at the time, then were able to lock down the win behind 40 points from Khris Middleton.
Just two weeks earlier, Antetokounmpo sustained a knee injury that looked like it would end his postseason. But he was back to play in the Bucks' first NBA Finals since 1974, then delivered back-to-back 40-point games in Game 2 and Game 3 before the eye-popping capper to Game 4.
4. He just jumped over a dude (Feb. 6, 2018)
This dunk had everything, even though it will mostly be known for Giannis literally jumping over a 6-6 player in New York’s Tim Hardaway Jr. It had a great alley-oop feed from Khris Middleton, a James-Brown-like screech from TV play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson, the bewildered look of tennis legend John McEnroe in the crowd and, of course, the environment of Madison Square Garden, where Giannis always seems to find time to shine.
5. Alley-oop to the stars (Feb. 17, 2019)
After he was named an all-star captain, Giannis made Golden State Warriors standout Stephen Curry his first selection in the NBA all-star draft. The two conspired on a jaw dropping alley-oop in the 2019 all-star game in Charlotte, in which Steph bounced a pass off the block of the lane high into the air, and Giannis fetched it from another part of the atmosphere to throw it down.
6. Garden party (Jan. 4, 2017)
We can argue when Giannis Antetokounmpo truly became GIANNIS! But most people will point to this as the moment his profile went nuclear. Giannis forced a turnover, then took an inbound pass, dribbled against pressure, took a huge step back and faded away north of the free throw line as he dropped in a true buzzer-beater to stun the Knicks, 105-104, inside the hallowed walls of Madison Square Garden. Giannis snatched away a game that was looking like a disappointing loss and did it in the glare of the New York spotlight.
The NBA tried to ruin our fun by stating a couple days later that he should have been called for 5 seconds. Legitimately, has that ever been called in the NBA?
7. Steph Curry in danger (Feb. 19, 2017)
In 2018, Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry drafted Giannis to be on his team for the NBA All-Star Game, part of a new format that featured two captains (LeBron James being the other) choosing sides instead of East-West rosters. Prior to the draft, Curry said he’d be happy to make that pick after Giannis dunked on him at the 2017 All-Star Game. Steph lacks the height that can really disrupt a putback dunk like this one, but he also has the rings and prestige that made this a memorable moment. It led to Curry laying down on the floor the next time he found himself between Giannis and the basket.
8. The record breaker (March 31, 2022)
Giannis broke the franchise record for points in an unusual way — with a 3-pointer. But it was a huge one, tying the game late against Brooklyn in the home stretch of the 2022 season, allowing the Bucks to force overtime and eventually win the game. Antetokounmpo scored 44 points in the game to surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 14,211 points and finishing with 14,216. It was his free throws in overtime with 3 seconds left that tipped the scales for Milwaukee, 120-119.
9. The face of the franchise (April 10, 2015)
Giannis, still blossoming as a leader and elite player in the NBA, demonstrated all his tools in the toolbox when he blocked a shot, grabbed the rebound, raced upcourt, dribbled behind his back to elude a defender and launched himself for another beautiful aerial dunk, one that followed with a demonstrative scowl that birthed a new Bucks meme. It’s basically the face of a player that had evolved from super-exciting talent to star that wasn’t going to let anything stand in his way.
10. Hawk eyes (June 25, 2021)
Though Giannis can certainly bully his way inside, few plays exemplify the skill and grace at his disposal than this move against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals in 2021. First, he spin-moved his way past poor Solomon Hill, then elevated for what looked like a dunk against elite shot blocker Clint Capela, only to change course and delicately lay it in. Milwaukee lost the first game of the series but led this one by as many as 40 before prevailing with a resounding 125-91 triumph.
11. A chasedown and feeling fine (July 6, 2021)
It was a dramatic return for Giannis, appearing in Milwaukee's first NBA Finals game since 1974 and doing so a mere week after what looked like a catastrophic knee injury in the Eastern Conference finals. But not only did he play, he scored 20 points and 17 rebounds, and he swatted Phoenix's Mikal Bridges with a chasedown block reminiscent of an iconic 2016 block by LeBron James in the Finals. Milwaukee lost the game, but it was a harbinger that Giannis was feeling fit enough to contribute. He did more than that going forward when the Bucks won the series.
12. The Selfie Slam (May 2, 2022)
It wasn't the first time Giannis had pulled this particular maneuver (he did something similar over four Timberwolves defenders on Oct. 28, 2021), tossing a wild shot off the glass in traffic, then taking advantage of the momentary confusion to rise up and slam it home. But in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Boston, it was an exclamation point on Milwaukee's 101-89 win and a play that left the Bucks bench buzzing.
13. Most valuable block (March 29, 2022)
When 76ers star Joel Embiid hauled in an offensive rebound, it looked like he had a clear path to score a basket that would have tied the game with less than 2 seconds to go in the late stages of the 2022 season, a matchup in Philly that featured two teams jockeying for the top spot in the East. After all, Embiid was the frontrunner to win the league MVP, though Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn't far from the conversation.
He wasn't far enough from the play either, elevating out of nowhere to swat the ball off the backboard and out of bounds. The initial ruling was a goaltend, but officials overturned the call on replay, and the Bucks left with a crucial 118-116 road win.
14. Amazing even if it shouldn't have counted (Dec. 29, 2017)
Yes, he stepped out of bounds. Giannis took the inbound with 4.7 seconds left in a tie game against a tough Oklahoma City team on the road, drove baseline and elevated for a game-winning dunk over Russell Westbrook. It was the rare blend of dunking excellence and buzzer-beating, but cameras showed that maaaaaybe Giannis nudged the baseline with his toe, and somehow review rules didn’t permit another look. Ah well. When physics don't seem to apply to you, you can't be constrained by mere boundaries.
It's not altogether unlike a drive to the basket and beautiful finger roll off the backboard with 2 seconds left to beat the Charlotte Hornets on Dec. 1, 2021.
15. Giannis does it all ... for Dad (Oct. 21, 2017)
This performance was simply the complete package, as Giannis put it together on both ends to pull out a win over the Trail Blazers. Later dedicating the win to his dad, Charles, who had passed away shortly before the season, Giannis finished with a career-high 44 points, none bigger than the two he scored on a breakaway dunk after he poked the ball away from CJ McCollum with 16 seconds to go and the Bucks trailing, 110-109. Not only that, he subsequently blocked a shot by Jusuf Nurkic near the rim that could have given the lead back to Portland. The Bucks wound up walking away with a room-rocking 113-110 win at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
16. The Knicks get put on spin cycle (Feb. 2, 2018)
Man, the Knicks show up on this list a lot. Everyone loves a good buzzer-beater, and Giannis’ violent spin move and lefty finish with 1.4 seconds left to beat the Knicks was yet another demonstration of what it’s like to have a bona fide superstar in crunch time. Also, that alternate court in Milwaukee is fire.
17. The meanest of mugs (Feb. 6, 2020)
Khris Middleton tried to hit Giannis with an alley-oop in a big-time clash against the 76ers at Fiserv Forum, but Philly's Al Horford was able to tip the pass. No matter, as Giannis needed one hand to corral the board and throw down a monster slam, followed by a mean mug all the way down the floor.
18. The chasedown alley-oop block (Nov. 19, 2021)
Giannis scrambled the length of the floor and somehow perfectly timed a soaring block of Darius Bazley in the fourth quarter on a shot that would have tied the game. The Bucks went on to beat Oklahoma City.
19. The and-1 against Andre Drummond (April 22, 2019)
For the first time since 2001, the Bucks won a playoff series, sweeping the Detroit Pistons in four convincing games. In the second quarter, Giannis flew to the hoop for a dunk only to face defender Andre Drummond — so Giannis changed paths mid air and floated up a jumper as he descended back to Earth. It counted, he drew a foul, and the Bucks wound up dominating the game.
20. The Surge over Serge (March 6, 2016)
There's certainly an argument that this is his most impressive dunk. His Euro step to shake Russell Westbrook was impressive on its own, but then he rises up for a one-handed slam to put future Bucks teammate Serge Ibaka on a poster. It’s pretty terrifying.
21. No regard for the Wisconsin kid (January 1, 2019)
Playing on New Year's Day, the Bucks were already flying high as the team with the best record in the NBA, but Giannis went to another stratosphere when he dunked on University of Wisconsin product Jon Leuer. The Bucks beat the Pistons, 121-98.
22. Stifled Tower (Dec. 9, 2017 and March 2, 2019)
The game was already pretty much in hand for the Bucks, and in real time, it felt like the Bradley Center crowd had checked out and needed a second to react to this grossly emphatic dunk over Utah’s Rudy Gobert, a.k.a “The Stifle Tower.” It was gloriously disrespectful (in the good way).
Gobert was again the subject of a Giannis posterization in a Milwaukee loss March 2, 2019.
23. The Closer (Feb. 28, 2021)
Some nifty ball movement from the Bucks gave an opening to Giannis, who then floated from the 3-point line to the rack without the benefit of a dribble and threw down a crushing slam that gave Milwaukee a 3-point edge over the Clippers with 10.3 seconds left. It came at a crucial time against a top-flight opponent at a time when the Bucks really needed a marquee victory.
24. The Double Clutch Dunk (Jan. 13, 2017)
The double-clutch-in-mid-air dunk against the Heat is a reminder that Giannis has broken the laws of physics.
25. Melo out (Jan. 4, 2017)
As Giannis has risen through the ranks, his list of dunked-upon targets has included some pretty big stars. In Madison Square Garden – home to a couple of spectacular entrants on this list – Giannis stole the ball and elevated from the free throw line while Carmelo Anthony made a “business decision” trailing the play.
26. A slam and a swat vs. Durant (May 2, 2021)
Facing off with a fellow Eastern Conference powerhouse before a national TV audience on Sunday afternoon, Giannis opened a key battle with the Nets by sending home an alley-oop slam over Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant. Was it more or less impressive than his super-human swat of Durant's legendary stepback jumper? Giannis, coming off an ankle injury that kept him out of most of the previous two games, finished with 49 points.
27. Beware the Rapture (April 15, 2017)
Playoff dunks are surely worth more than just two points, especially when they come over a couple top players from the Toronto Raptors.
28. The save (Feb. 23, 2018)
Even some of Giannis' mistakes turn to gold. As he lost the ball on a drive in overtime against the Toronto Raptors, Giannis was able to make a lunging one handed save under the basket to Jason Terry in the corner, who flicked the ball into the air for a game-tying 3-pointer in a game the Bucks later won. It was only the raptors' fifth home loss of the season to that point, and Toronto was leading the East.
29. Flashes of the future (Nov. 30, 2013)
The first month of the 2013-'14 season was a hellacious one for the Bucks, who opened 2-12. A win over the Celtics snapped an 11-game skid, and Giannis wasn’t a factor yet in his rookie season – still a couple weeks away from turning 19. But he chased down Jordan Crawford on a Boston breakaway for a block on one end, then took a feed and elevated from the free throw line for a remarkable glimpse of what was to come.
30. Hike (Jan. 15, 2018)
Despite his height, Giannis' freak athleticism could probably translate to just about any sport ... perhaps football. After a loose rebound pinballed around, Giannis reached down for it, hiked a perfect pass between his legs to Khris Middleton streaking down the floor and netted an easy two points against the Wizards.
JR Radcliffe can be reached at (262) 361-9141 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JRRadcliffe.