Giannis Antetokounmpo has delivered the Milwaukee Bucks their first NBA championship in 50 years with a 105-98 victory over the visiting Phoenix Suns.
With the victory, the Bucks clinched the NBA Finals 4-2 and became only the fifth team to win the best-of-seven championship series after losing the first two games.
Greek forward Giannis Antetokounmpo produced a masterpiece as he led the way for Milwaukee with a play-offs career-high 50 points to secure a championship that will surely soothe the Bucks’ recent history of post-season failure.
The achievement saw the Greek 26-year-old become just the seventh player to score 50 points in an NBA finals game.
Two-time league MVP Antetokounmpo also had 14 rebounds and five blocked shots in a dominant performance.
He was named NBA Finals MVP for a series in which he averaged 35.2 points and 13.2 rebounds.
It was the third game this series with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds for Antetokounmpo, a dominant, debut finals performance that takes its place among some of the game’s greatest.
He shot 16 for 25 from the field and made an unbelievable 17-of-19 free throws – a spectacular performance for any shooter, let alone one who was hitting just 55.6 per cent in the post-season and was ridiculed for it at times.
Antetokounmpo hopped around the court waving his arms with 20 seconds remaining to encourage fans to cheer, but it was way too late for that.
Their voices had been booming inside and outside for hours by then, having waited 50 years to celebrate a winner after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson led the Bucks to the championship in 1971.
In a season played played largely without fans, the Bucks had 65,000 of them packed into the Deer District outside, a wild party that figured to last deep into the Midwestern night.
“I thank my teammates, they played hard every freaking game,” Antetokounmpo said.
“I trusted this team. I wanted to do it here in this city, I wanted to do it with these guys so I’m happy. I’m happy I am able to get it done.”
Phoenix overcame a slow start to the game and led by as many as seven points early in the third quarter but could not contain Antetokounmpo down the stretch.
Suns guard Chris Paul had a team-high 26 points to end his first NBA Finals appearance in his 16th season.
Devin Booker added 19 points but shot just 8 for 22 and missed all seven 3-pointers after scoring 40 points in each of the last two games.
The teams that came into the NBA together as expansion clubs in 1968 delivered a fine finals, with the last three games all in the balance deep into the fourth quarter.
The Bucks won them all largely because of Antetokounmpo and big efforts from Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday.