"In 2013, Giannis and Khris Middleton were on a team that was 15-67. 2021, they just won 16 games to be world champions." With that historical reminder, Jalen Rose framed the big picture storyline of the Bucks winning the NBA title. Small-market teams can build a team through the draft and smart trades. But there's a big IF there - If their superstar is a high-character guy.
Giannis decided not to chase a championship, like we've seen happen before, but to build one right here in Milwaukee. He was surrounded with great role players. We've seen Khris Middleton have great games, Jrue Holiday have great games. But also, he put up a 50 piece to clinch a Finals victory. That's his first career 50 point game, that's coming off a hyperextended knee and missing two games in the Eastern Conference Finals - that is putting your team on your back!
Maria Taylor, ESPN
Giannis didn't just win a title with the Bucks. Somewhere down the line, someone will talk about seeing him do this as one of the reasons they stayed in a small market - the same way Giannis looked ad Dirk and how legendary his one title with Dallas was. Unlike Dirk, Giannis has a lot of peak basketball years ahead of him and doesn't plan to stop at just one title. But before this season started, by resigning with the Bucks, Giannis effectively said he'd rather win just one in Milwaukee than several elsewhere. That message will have a profound impact on the NBA. Surrounded by over 60.000 people in the Deer District, Jalen Rose explained why that makes Giannis a genius.
This atmosphere reminds me. I've been doing this for 19 consecutive years. All championship rings ain't created equal. It hit different when you build, and you stay. Here's what he did that was genius. When this team didn't reach their goals the last couple of years - when Philadelphia was still Processing, when the Raptors and the Heat were still winning the East, when the Nets were creating a superteam, you know what he did? He reinvested in this team and resigned before the season. There were so many people in basketball that were imploring Giannis to leave. Now that you stay, you make it calm for everybody else. It hits different when you build it, and you stay. I saw when Dirk did it, I saw when Tim Duncan did it, when Kobe did it. It just hits different. This is a special love affair that will carry on for decades.
Jalen Rose, ESPN
Shaq explained there are levels to stardom in the NBA. You win a ring, that's great. You get in the Hall of Fame, even greater. But's what's the ultimate goal? Having your statue in front of the arena. The greatest legends, the ones grandchildren hear about, are the guys who not only won but did representing the soul of a city. When you do it in a small market like Milwaukee? That's basketball immortality right there. How small of a market it is? Adrian Wojnarowski painted a picture for us.
He always believed he could will this franchise to a championship. 8 years ago, he got on a plane in New York, at the NBA Draft, for Milwaukee and had no idea where it was on the map. He's put it back on the NBA map. This is a victory not just for Milwaukee and Giannis but small markets in the NBA.
Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN
I never got upset about LeBron joining DWade and Bosh in Miami or KD teaming up with Steph, Klay, and Draymond. Who wouldn't want to play with great teammates? They were free agents and chose basketball nirvana. The way AD left New Orleans, or how James Harden stabbed Houston in the back - I have a lot of problems with that.
But even LeBron and KD have to understand that while it's legitimate to use free agency the way they did, those titles aren't as impressive and don't inspire as much respect and admiration as Dirk's in 2011 or Giannis' in 2021. As Jalen said, not all rings are created equal. Miami will never love LeBron, and the Bay Area will never love KD as Dallas loves Dirk and Milwaukee loves Giannis. That love is earned through loyalty and is the ultimate feeling an athlete can experience - that one lasts generations.
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