Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award
NOTE: This story was updated on Jan. 18, 2022, to make it free for all readers.
Giannis Antetokounmpo completed the career most valuable player trifecta by being named the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP on Tuesday night after the Milwaukee Bucks’ 105-98 championship-clinching victory over the Phoenix Suns at Fiserv Forum.
Antetokounmpo becomes just the 11th player in league history to have won the regular-season MVP (2018, 2019), a Finals MVP (2021) and an All-Star Game MVP (2021). He and Michael Jordan are the only players to claim those honors and also a Defensive Player of the Year award.
He also joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only Bucks players to have won regular-season and Finals MVPs. They are two of just 17 players to earn that distinction in league history.
Antetokounmpo is also the fifth international player to win the award (Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Dirk Nowitzki).
"I remember the summer after I won my first MVP, I was happy. I was happy with my family, but at the same time I was miserable," Antetokounmpo said, cradling the MVP and Larry O'Brien trophies. "Like everywhere I went, it was like, MVP. It's done. It's over with. It's done. It's in the past. Got to do it again. And I was able to do it again. This year I wasn't able to do it. I don't know why, but OK.
"But this, this is a feeling, like this is an addictive feeling. I love playing in the playoffs. I love playing in the Finals. This is the moments I want to chase. I want the team to build off this and hopefully we can do it again."
It seems improbable to believe that even playing in the Finals was a real question for Antetokounmpo. He suffered a hyperextended left knee in the Eastern Conference finals June 29 and somehow found a way to play in Game 1 on July 6. He played 35 minutes in his Finals debut, scoring 20 points on 54.5% shooting, pulling down 17 rebounds and handing out four assists.
"For him to be back in a game in the Finals in general was freakish," teammate Pat Connaughton said. "And then for him to do what he did throughout this Finals was incredible."
What Antetokounmpo did was make history every game that followed:
42 points (68.2% shooting), 12 rebounds, 4 assists
- It was his 10th game of the playoffs with at least 30 and 12, joining Shaquille O'Neal, Olajuwon, Elgin Baylor and Abdul-Jabbar as the only players to have that many in one postseason.
- His 20 fourth-quarter points were the most points scored in a Finals quarter since Michael Jordan had 22 in 1993 vs. the Suns.
- He joined O’Neal as the only players to have at least 40 and 10 in consecutive Finals games.
41 points (60.9% shooting), 13 rebounds, six assists
- Joined Bob Pettit (1957) as the only players to average at least 30 and 14 through the first three games of his first three Finals games.
- Became one of seven players to score 40 points with just one turnover in a game.
- Had the fourth most points scored in his first three Finals game with 103.
26 points (57.9% shooting) and pulled in 14 rebounds and handed out eight assists – and he came up with the signature defensive play of his career and one of the best in Finals history with a fourth-quarter block of Suns center Deandre Ayton.
- It was the first block of a dunk attempt in clutch time of Finals over the last 25 seasons, per ESPN Stats & Info.
- He joined O’Neal as the only players to average 30 points per game on 60% shooting through his first four games since 1955.
32 points (60.9% shooting) with nine rebounds and six assists. He also called for the ball on a soaring alley-oop dunk over Chris Paul at the end of the game.
- Joined Larry Bird, Dennis Johnson, Kevin Durant and LeBron James as the only players to score 30 and have at least five rebounds and assists and not turn the ball over since 1978.
- He is the first player in Finals history to average 30 points, 10 rebounds and five assists on 60% shooting.
Saving his best for last, Antetokounmpo turned in a virtuoso performance. He emptied the whole bag, using a pump-fake on a three-pointer to blow by Ayton and finish with a spin move. He knocked down a three. He made 17 of his 19 free throws. He hit jumpers, layups and finished at the rim to clinch the series with 50 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks.
"I don't know how many words you need to use beyond 50 points in a close-out game in an NBA Finals," Bucks center Brook Lopez said. "Pretty much sums it all up."
Connaughton added: "It's kind of as Brook said, it's awesome to have a front row seat to it and awesome to watch it and it's incredible because he's an even better human being than he is a basketball player. We've all seen what he does on the biggest stage now after winning his first NBA Finals championship and being the Finals MVP, but he's an even better person."
- He became the seventh player in NBA history to have 50 points in the Finals, joining Jordan (1993) and James (2018).
- He became the second player in the last 50 years to score 33 points in a half of a Finals game (Jordan).
- It was his 12th game of this postseason with 30 points and 10 rebounds, tying Elgin Baylor for second-most in a single playoff in NBA history.
- He joined O'Neal (2000) as the only players with three or more 40 and 10 games in a single NBA Finals.
- He became the first player with 40 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in any playoff game since O'Neal (2001).
- He became the first player to record multiple 30-point halves in a single NBA Finals over the last 40 years.
- He became the first player in NBA history to average 30 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, one block and one steal on 50% shooting in a single playoff run.
Antetokounmpo averaged 35.2 points (on 61.8% shooting), 13.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals.
"It's hard to find more words to describe what Giannis does," Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. "But the way he made his free throws, the way he did everything, stepped up, the poise, the confidence, the leadership. He has been working on it.
"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 and you've got to make shots. He's made shots throughout the playoffs. He's made free throws throughout the playoffs. Blocked shots, however many points. He's of the charts.
"He's the MVP of the NBA Finals."