Giannis Antetokounmpo has been one of the best basketball players on the planet for a few years but had never . Despite his incredible statistical achievements and two MVPs, Antetokounmpo had never had one career-defining moment we could all point to that signaled his greatness. We can't say that anymore after Game 4 of the 2021 NBA Finals.
Every basketball legend has a moment or individual performance that elevated them to another height beyond the other All-Stars. Michael Jordan had "the shot" and "the shrug." Magic Johnson had the junior sky hook. Larry Bird had "The steal" and his triple-double in Game 7 against the Knicks in 1984. LeBron James had his performance in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals and "the block." Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal had the lob against Portland. It goes on and on, but the all-time greats have individual moments or performances that stand out as memories of their greatness. Giannis found his Wednesday night.
With 1:14 left in Game 4 and the Bucks holding on to a tenuous 101-99 lead, Antetokounmpo struck. As Devin Booker drove from the top of the key towards the right side of the paint, P.J. Tucker was defending him, but fell a half-step behind. Giannis helped off of Deandre Ayton, shadowing Booker's drive. Booker and Ayton recognized the situation immediately and acted accordingly. As Booker continued his drive, Ayton dove to the rim, and the guard tossed a one-handed alley-oop to the big man.
Antetokounmpo didn't leave Booker's shadow until the ball was in the air, but he retreated quickly and immediately began a jump towards the rim. Ayton caught the ball above the square near the left side of the backboard and it appeared Giannis' only recourse would be to allow the dunk or foul Ayton. Well, those would have been his only options if he were a normal human being.
Somehow, despite quickly retreating backwards and jumping almost blindly, Antetokounmpo recovered perfectly and got a clean block on the ball. Somehow, despite scrambling into position, he still had the strength in his fingertips to stop the 6-foot-11, 255-pound Ayton in his tracks. Tucker recovered the rebound and the Bucks outscored the Suns 8-4 the rest of the way to secure a 109-103 win. The victory tied the Finals at 2-2, and that block may have changed the trajectory of the series.
Here's the play in question:
And some replays:
This still of it is pretty incredible:
And this one:
Simply put, it's one of the most incredible defensive plays I've ever seen on a basketball court. There are only a handful of people in NBA history who could have pulled it off and Antetokounmpo is one of them.
It was a moment. The kind of incredible feat of athleticism that elevates a player to legendary status. Giannis is 26, he's in his eighth season and nothing he's done in his phenomenal has equaled that block. It was stunning and it was a singular example of his greatness that will live on beyond his career.