By Lenn Robbins, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely but what if that power is so positive, so genuine, so uplifting that it enhances absolutely?
What if Giannis Antetokounmpo’s remarkable brilliance on the court is exceeded only by his benevolence off it? What if he embraced an entire city to his chest, shone down on its inhabitants with that childlike, beaming smile and washed them in his joyous tears, that when triumph came to his city, Milwaukee knew it could not sully its star by ruining the moment.
There were an estimated 60,000 fans pulsating around Fiserv Forum and another 20,000 erupting inside as the Bucks won their first NBA title in 50 years. It was a societal petri dish for mayhem, lawlessness, the worst face of the American sports fan, which has never looked more hideous than it has lately.
Yet there were no reports of rampant looting, smashed windows, garbage bins set ablaze or police cars overturned. There was a report early Wednesday morning in the Milwaukee Sentinel of a dozen shots being fired and three people sustaining non-life-threatening injuries.
If you put 80,000 people in a basketball mosh pit metropolis known as Brew City and come away with three non-life-threatening injuries, that’s a great night. That might be a better night than the Bucks championship quest, Giannis’s quest, realized with his 50-point, 14-rebound, six blocked shot masterpiece in the 105-98 clinching win.
That’s a starry night fans in every city (Are you paying attention, Philly?!) should take note of. There can be victory and joy, that isn’t followed by destruction and misery.
So how did it happen? How did Milwaukee, a city that was on tenterhooks just four months ago when Jacob Blake, Jr. was left paralyzed after a police shooting, not blow? Can the answer be as naïve as this; that the ethos of Giannis Sina Ugo Antetokounmpo spread throughout the city like a benign virus?
“I can be stubborn sometimes,” Antetokounmpo said in the wee hours after winning the title and MVP award. “I can disconnect myself from the world because I want this so bad. And I was able to get it, that’s why I was tearing up. But, like, people helped me be in this position. I didn’t do this by myself. Every freaking day people helped me. I want to thank everyone.”
And that’s what Giannis did. As soon as the last second ticked off the clock, Giannis embraced his family and friends, tears streaming down his face. He took a seat alone on the baseline, the emotion pouring out of him like a waterfall. He pulled coach Mike Budenholzer, the most successful/embattled coach in these playoffs, and accomplice Khris Middleton into a back-cracking hug.
By Wednesday morning, Giannis was ordering 50 chicken nuggets – one nugget per Finals game point – at a Chick-fil-A drive-thru. What kind of 26-year-old superstar celebrates by ordering chicken nuggets at a drive-thru instead of partying at the club?
Then again, what kind of star resigns with the team that made him the 15th pick in the 2013 draft, instead of forming a super team in New York or Miami, or LA? Giannis made an entire city feel special.
“Coming back, I was like, ‘This is my city. They trust me. They believe in me. They believe in us,” said Antetokounmpo. “Obviously I wanted to get the job done. But that’s my stubborn side. It’s easy to go somewhere and go win a championship with somebody else. It’s easy. … I could go to a super team and just do my part and win a championship.
“But this is the hard way to do it,” he continued, pounding the dais for emphasis, “and this is the way to do it, and we did it. We f—ing did it.”
Giannis delivered for his city. His city delivered for him.