After waiting for more than four dozen years, the city of Milwaukee celebrated its second NBA title. Led by a 50-point performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks won a six-game series by closing out the Phoenix Suns with a 105-98 win on July 20. At 26-years-old, Antetokounmpo entered into rare territory. He is one of the very few stars in NBA history to earn NBA Defensive Player of the Year honors, two NBA MVP trophies and an NBA title. During a post-game press conference, the Bucks star spoke about one of the people that motivated him to accomplish all that he has in such a short period of time, Kobe Bryant. Bryant challenged the NBA Finals MVP to win a regular-season MVP award in 2017 and two years later, he did it. Afterward, Bryant challenged the young phenom to win an NBA title and he's done it.
"This started almost like a joke at first. He was in a Nike ad and he was sending challenges to players to Isaiah Thomas, DeMar DeRozan and all that. I was like, 'Yeah, let me just shoot my shot. What's my challenge?' And he was like 'MVP.' At first, I was joking, I didn't think he was going to respond to me, but when he did, he made me believe. I'm like 'Kobe Bryant thinks I can do this? I can play at a high level, lift my team and win MVP?' I had to do it," he told a group of reporters.
Antetokounmpo is an outgoing, fun-loving person. Above all else, he loves to please his friends, family and mentors like Bryant. As a result, he made it a point to please one of the people that inspired him to reach the heights that he has in the NBA.
"I had to work hard because people believe that I can do it. That's the thing. I'm a people pleaser. I don't like letting people down. When I re-signed with the city of Milwaukee, that's the main reason I re-signed, because I didn't want to let the people down and think that I don't work extremely hard for them, which I do. To be able to accomplish those things in the spirit of time, it's crazy. It's freaking unreal, I can't believe it," the Bucks star added.
Unfortunately, Bryant is not here to celebrate with the young, 26-year-old, but he would surely be proud.