It’s official, after months of speculating, wondering, then some general presuming, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been anointed as the 2018-19 NBA MVP. Let’s get the annoying disclaimer for all the awards the Milwaukee Bucks won tonight out of the way. It is dumb we are just learning these now. It is dumb the NBA drags this out past the Playoffs, when we’re all reminded, over and over, these are regular season awards. So, now that the Playoffs have happened and essentially paved over and likely clouded most people’s recollections of this past season, we are finally settling the score on the 82 games that preceded this year’s playoffs. It’s dumb. What is not dumb: Giannis Antetokounmpo taking his place as this league’s “Next Big Thing.” His award comes on the heels of Bud taking home coach of the year honors.
His combination of defensive versatility, overpowering offensive nature and the Bucks climb up the league’s ledger all made this feel like the most likely outcome after this past season. James Harden certainly gave him a good run, scoring at outrageous clips to keep the Houston Rockets steadily imploding ship from careening into space, but it wasn’t enough to eclipse Giannis and the heights he took this franchise to. Apologies to Paul George, who put up one hell of a fight before facing his shoulder injury. He finished the year at 27.7 points per game, 12.5 rebounds (H/T to Brook Lopez), 5.9 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks. That’s across the board-impact most players couldn’t even sniff. He’s also the youngest MVP awardee since Derrick Rose took it home at age 22. Only 11 players ever have won the award at 24 or younger. He is in rarefied air.
Most importantly, he is the Bucks first MVP since Kareem Abdul-Jabaar took home a trifecta of trophies in the early 1970’s. He’s cemented his legacy as the best Buck since Kareem, with many, many years to go (hopefully) as the face of this franchise. Even if it feels a little bittersweet with the award given after Milwaukee’s playoff collapse, there’s nothing less genuine than the happiness I’m sure Giannis feels. I don’t care if it’s a cliche at this point, to go from selling trinkets on the street to scooping up trophies at the pinnacle of the sport is one goddamned good HBO documentary in the making. Thank you Giannis for making basketball relevant in Milwaukee again. May this MVP not be your last.
Here is the full, heartfelt, tearjerker of a video encapsulating his award speech. We are blessed.