Giannis Antetokounmpo Sparked Freakish Joy
By Kyle Koster
This is why we watch sports. To see the son of immigrants born in Athens paint a unique masterpiece on the biggest stage and become a legend in Milwaukee. To see the satisfaction, relief and brotherly love all represented on Giannis Antetokounmpo's face as he basked in the glory of a fourth straight win and a first of what could be many NBA titles. To see the process: from taking lumps and L's too early and dealing with the subsequent doubt and disrespect to planting a flag in bedrock at basketball's summit. To fall in love with a player who, despite otherworldly talent, was relegated to periphery of public consciousness as the rich only seemed to get richer.
Antetokounmpo climbed that mountain and into millions of hearts on the heels of a seemingly horrific injury, rebounding with pure physical dominance and steadfast mental resilience. When the sun burned away the mist from that peak it revealed as good a Finals performance as ever performed. In six games he averaged 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds and 5.0 blocks. In the series-clincher he posted a perfect 50 points to go with 14 rebounds and five rejections. As astounding as his offensive clinic was, his defense may have been even more important.
And for neutral observers he created a nest of pure joy. A wholesome place easy to bask in another's accomplishment. So many went from having no skin in the game to wanting to crawl through glass just to see him wear the crown after holding court.
We watch sports to see something we've never seen before and Giannis is a true unicorn at a time when the term is overused. Deep down we weren't sure his brand of ball could work, if he had that certain It Factor. He made it his personal mission to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that we've only begun to see a portion of his Freakishness.
Conversation is afoot that this is his league now. That he usurped the No. 1 position from LeBron James after a decade-plus reign. His story has been incredible to this point and the following chapters may be even more compelling.
We watch sports to find players worth rooting for through thick and thin. To find those who are spellbinding on the field of play and centered off of it. Who merge the professional and personal into an alluring cocktail.
Giannis checks all the boxes.
When it mattered most he turned his biggest weakness — free-throw shooting — into a strength. Each and every time he went to the line Tuesday night was an opportunity for the demons to creep in. To remember that he shouldn't be able to do this. And 17 of 19 times he turned that noise off by finding the bottom of the bucket. His body and mind worked as one together to create string music.
These are the moments and players we live to follow. Giannis' arc is the one we desperately wish to see delight the better angels of our nature.
That smile creeping across his face was contagious and we should thank him for allowing us the secondary joy. Because, if it wasn't painfully obvious before, this is the good stuff.