Patty Mills has begun his NBA spell with Brooklyn by scoring 21 points off the bench but his stellar performance was not enough to prevent an opening night 127-104 loss to reigning champions Milwaukee.
This whole NBA Finals was themed by legacies. But what makes it so different and does different mean worse?
Especially when we understand it was lacking an established narrative.
It is an untraditional NBA Finals where the drama lies within the hypothetical outcomes. Not one player on both sides has ever played in an NBA finals, there is no legitimate beef going on, no breakout parties to admire and this is not a transitional year to kick off a new era like with the emergence of Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan.
As of right now, nothing is riding except for one thing.
While it is true there might be no technical breakout parties going on in these finals, even when you look at Phoenix and their astonishing turnaround, it wasn’t like Devin Booker really went up another level in his game. He was down in every statistical category, including efficiency.
Then there’s the exceptionally surprising continuance of the ‘Chris Paul’ effect, that he is still turning franchises around at his age, but it’s nothing new. Instead, the one thing riding is Giannis Antetokounmpo – who we are witnessing move into his second peak.
This does not happen often. Usually a player peaks once, we remember him most for that period of time and that’s it.
Giannis is moving into a legendary territory where he has undeniably reached the potential that we once envisioned for him. But when he got there, he found new tools and just kept on climbing. He unlocked his God-given strength.
He mastered being a threat in any transitional movement. I’ve never seen more eyes look at one guy so fast than the way an entire stadium looks at Giannis on a turnover, going either way.
We already know he became the Defensive Player of the Year, a multiple MVP winner, and he was even the best player in his conference. That was the blueprint for him coming in but these finals have kicked off a new product, Giannis 2.0.
I know this comparison is getting a little cliche, but just like Shaquile O’Neal in 1995, he was the strongest guy in the world. But it was like a bull in a china shop.
It wasn’t so much that he was flawed with poor shooting and court sense, it was that after maximising his potential, it felt one-dimensional. After losing to more versatile big men like Tim Duncan, Shaq went into the lab.
Finally, in 2000, the NBA Finals came around and he showcased a new version of himself.
But for Giannis, the improvements were not as simple as being aware of when to throw kick out passes or something. It was knowing when to take over a game and when to get the teammates involved.
It was him manoeuvring through the Suns’ brick wall, a type of defence that had haunted him in the past. It was him methodically attacking De’Andre Ayton where in the past, it seemed he was all buck, no brain.
He was a different player today than who we saw last year get gentleman sweeped against Miami, just like how Shaq was a different player after being fully swept by the Spurs – one year prior of him three-peating and taking over the league.
But like with all evolutions, the product is still the product. The iPhone 2 and iPhone 11 are still iPhones. The core of what makes it great is still the selling point.
What I’m saying is, Giannis is not a shooter. Has never shown any inclination that he might one day be a dangerous spot up shooter.
Right now, Giannis 1.0 and Giannis 2.0 are not leaning towards shooting anytime soon, so we should be outraged when Giannis is shooting threes eight seconds into the shot clock?
That’s the story here. The reflective angle, the story at the end of the page then becomes one. Chris Paul is most likely not coming back to the finals. He was up 2-0 and lost.
I don’t wanna dive too much into that because I can do a whole ten-minute take just on that. But he’s most likely going to end his career in the Jason Kidd and Steve Nash tier. And people are going to point to this moment and call him a choke artist.
This was a finals with no familiar faces. With dynasties come narrative, established narrative.
Every single NBA Finals of the entire century has had one of the four dynasties competing. The Lakers, Spurs, Heat and Warriors.
Without any of them, this felt like a World Heavyweight title fight with the past champion not fighting. There’s nothing being taken.
These teams have not been built up as champions. No established narrative, less drama – and it was awesome.
All new faces from beginning to end – it was awesome.