MILWAUKEE (AP) — This could have been the offseason in which Giannis Antetokounmpo entered the free-agent market and perhaps teamed up with another superstar to try winning multiple NBA titles together.
Antetokounmpo instead will spend the summer celebrating a championship he won with the team that picked him.
Leading the Bucks to their first NBA crown in a half century rewarded Antetokounmpo for his December decision to sign a supermax extension with Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo averaged 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5 assists to help the Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns 4-2 in the NBA Finals.
“I could go to a superteam and just do my part and win a championship,’’ Antetokounmpo said Tuesday as he was flanked by the Larry O’Brien trophy and his NBA Finals MVP trophy. “But this is the hard way to do it and this is the way to do it. And we did it.”
Antetokounmpo, 26, stuck with the franchise that had taken a chance on him eight years ago by selecting him with the 15th overall pick in the draft. He was just 18 then.
Loyalty matters to Antetokounmpo, who grew up dealing with poverty in Greece.
He spent much of his postgame news conference thanking the people who helped get him to this point. He praised the current and former Bucks officials who assisted in his development. He wore a T-shirt honoring Jim Paschke, who retired this year after broadcasting Bucks games for 35 seasons.
Most of all, he spoke about his family while crediting his Nigerian parents for the sacrifices they made along the way. Three of their sons have now won NBA championships, though Giannis is the unquestioned star of that group.
“I can be stubborn sometimes,” Antetokounmpo said. “I can disconnect myself from the world because I want this so bad. I wanted this so bad, and I was able to get it. That’s why I was tearing up. But people helped me to be in this position. I didn’t do it by myself.”
He also thanked the city that has become his basketball home.
“This is my city,” Antetokounmpo said. “They trust me. They believe in me. They believe in us.”