Faced with the biggest test of his young career, Greece's Giannis Antetokounmpo gave a herculean performance on Tuesday night in Milwaukee, leading his Bucks to their first title in a half century with 50 points in a 105-98 Game 6 win over the Phoenix Suns.
The 26-year-old overcame a knee injury he suffered in the Eastern Conference Finals and his own poor free throw shooting in the playoffs to grab 14 key rebounds and block five shots while sinking 17 of 19 from the line on Tuesday.
Prior to Game 6, the Athens native known as the 'Greek Freak' had made just 55.8 percent of his foul shots in the postseason while being teased relentlessly by opposing crowds.
Tuesday, in his adopted home town of Milwaukee, Antetokounmpo didn't listen to ridicule, but rather chants of 'MVP' from the capacity crowd at Fiserv Forum and the estimated 65,000 fans surrounding the arena.
Naturally, voting media members agreed, and awarded Antetokounmpo the NBA Finals MVP award.
'People told me I can't make free throws and I made them tonight,' Antetokounmpo said after winning his first NBA title. 'And I'm a freaking champion.'
'It's hard to find more words to describe what Giannis does,' Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said after Tuesday's win. '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.
'To win a championship, you've got to make free throws and you've got to make shots,' he continued. 'He's made shots throughout the playoffs. He's made free throws throughout the playoffs. [Five] blocked shots, however many points. He's off the charts. He's the MVP of the NBA Finals.'
Antetokounmpo surprised the basketball-loving public back in December by singing a five-year, $220 million extension with the club amid rampant speculation he would try to force his way to a bigger market to match his burgeoning star power.
But for Antetokounmpo, one of five sons born to Nigerian immigrants, winning with the team that drafted him as a skinny teenager in 2013 was too important.
'I wanted to do it here in the city and I wanted to do it here with these guys,' Antetokounmpo said.
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