Giannis Antetokounmpo tries to stay present in the moment. He explained just this in a press conference, right before crushing Phoenix hearts with his clutch alley-oop dunk in Game 5.
So far, staying present in the moment has led to him producing some of the finest basketball of his career. This has in turn, led to some of the greatest finals moments of all time. All in the space of just a week. More importantly, it also has left the Milwaukee Bucks on the brink of their first championship since 1971.
Giannis Antetokounmpo Stays Present in the Moment
‘When you focus on the past, that’s your ego. I kind of try to focus on the moment, in the present. That’s humility.’
Before Game 5 of the Finals, Antetokounmpo made a quote that quickly went viral all over social media. He was fresh off his series saving Game 4 block, perhaps the signature play of his career so far. Ahead of what was now the most important game of his career; the Milwaukee forward was asked about his mindset and how he’s able to manage his ego in situations like these.
In his answer, Antetokounmpo recalled a realization he had when contemplating how to get the best out of himself. He said quite simply when you focus on the past, you allow your ego to talk. Whereas focusing on what you’ll do in the future, this is just your pride talking. Antetokounmpo says he tries to focus on the moment because that’s tapping into your humility. He said that being present and humble has allowed him to set no expectations; and instead, go out on the floor to enjoy competing at a high level.
Just seeing this Giannis answer. This is so intensely valuable. For anyone. pic.twitter.com/bD829l42JR
— Chris Vernon (@ChrisVernonShow) July 17, 2021
Antetokounmpo lives in the moment, and these finals have so far produced his career’s defining moments. He has become the first player to drop back-to-back 40-point, 10-rebound games in the Finals since Shaquille O’Neal did so in 2000. He had the block that was felt around the world in the closing stages of Game 4. Then, after teaching us all a valuable lesson on ego, Antetokounmpo went out on Saturday night and secured a pivotal Game 5 victory with a jaw-dropping alley-oop slam.
Antetokounmpo is averaging 30 and 10 in the NBA Finals and now stands one win away from a Championship. Staying present in the moment has led to one of the greatest finals performances of all time.
In Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Antetokounmpo produced one of the greatest blocks in NBA history.
The possession took place with just over a minute remaining in the fourth quarter. The Bucks led by two points, but Phoenix had the ball. Somewhat controversially, the Suns still had Devin Booker out there on the court.
Depending on how these closing possessions were to play out, the game seemed likely to be remembered as the Booker game. Firstly thanks to Booker’s electric 40-point performance, which had kept the Suns afloat, but secondly due to one of the all-time no-calls on Booker’s sixth foul.
Booker’s indiscretion was blatant. He actually fouled Jrue Holiday twice on the same play. It was a contentious decision because Booker would’ve been out of the ball game with just over three minutes to play, basically killing any hope of a Suns comeback. If Phoenix had managed to run over the Bucks in these final minutes, Game 4 would have been remembered as one where the referees let the occasion override the importance of making the right call. The momentum of the series would have swung purely on a refereeing decision.
Luckily, Antetokounmpo had other ideas. With fourteen seconds left on the shot-clock and 1:19 seconds left in the game; the Suns ran a dribble hand-off. With the ball in hand, Booker had PJ Tucker hounding him. Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo was guarding Deandre Ayton but had to also be wary of the ball handler. As Booker turned the corner at the top of the arc, Ayton began his roll towards the rim, and suddenly Antetokounmpo was caught in no man’s land.
However, as Booker threw up a lob, Antetokounmpo pivoted and leaped to block a dunk attempt by Ayton. He met Ayton at the summit and defended the rim. It was an astonishing display of Antetokounmpo’s unique blend of athleticism, skill, and heart. One of the most spectacular plays in NBA finals history. It was his moment, but he wasn’t done just yet.
When you compete in the present you give yourself the best chance to win at whatever you are doing.
One game after that incredible block, Antetokounmpo got on the end of a lob thrown by Holiday and slammed home a vicious alley-oop in the waning seconds of Game 5. The dunk secured victory for Milwaukee. Impressively, it also came after Antetokounmpo had missed two critical free throws only a minute earlier. Two free throws that allowed Phoenix back into the game. Antetokounmpo said he doesn’t think too much about past achievements or failures, and on the court, he is true to his word.
In his pre-game speech, Antetokounmpo stressed humility, and in Game 5 he produced an unselfish performance. He got his side near the summit and handed the keys over to teammate Khris Middleton to get them across the finish line. Middleton was masterful in the clutch. He drained jump-shot after jump-shot, which included a step-back from three-point land to extend the Bucks lead to eight with 2:23 remaining in the game. Any past talk about Middleton not being a true second option on a title-contending team can finally be put to bed for good. He’s been spectacular in these finals.
Nevertheless, the Suns rallied and only trailed by a point with less than 24 seconds to play. They also had possession and a chance to take the lead. Enter Holiday. Don’t get it twisted, Holiday also played a starring role in ‘The Dunk’. The play wouldn’t have been possible without him.
With 19 seconds remaining in Game 5, Holiday stripped the ball from Booker’s grasp and steamed down the other end of the court. The steal of Holiday’s life perhaps also snatched away the Championship trophy from the clutches of Phoenix.
Holiday proceeded to throw up a lob to the on-rushing Antetokounmpo and the rest is now history. When asked if he was worried the pass for Antetokounmpo’s alley-oop was too high, Holiday responded: ‘Nah. They don’t call him the Freak for nothing.’
THE DUNK. pic.twitter.com/2MZwqGhr5C
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 18, 2021
The Making of a Legend
Even Hall of Fame-level players are lucky if they make a single play in their career that truly stands the test of time. These moments are few and far between. Antetokounmpo has had The Block and The Dunk in back-to-back games in the NBA finals. He now has to win one more game to make it stick.
Forget the MVPs, and all the accolades Antetokounmpo will rack up in his career. It’s moments like these that make legends. That block, this dunk; will forever exemplify just how he became a basketball legend.
Antetokounmpo does his best to live in the moment. By doing so, he’s now given us two iconic NBA Finals moments that we will forever remember.
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