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A look at ‘Greek Freak’ Giannis Antetokounmpo’s journey from hardships to hero

The city of Milwaukee is celebrating its first national basketball championship in 50 years. It's a delirious moment for a city and a smaller-market team that once won with the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson. Fans are cheering the team and its new superstar leader Giannis Antetokounmpo — the seventh player in NBA history to score 50 or more points in a final. Stephanie Sy reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we close with how the city of Milwaukee is celebrating its first NBA championship in 50 years.

    It's a delirious moment for a city and a smaller market team that had finished short of its expectations for several years. Milwaukee last won with the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, known then as Lew Alcindor, and Oscar Robertson. Fans are cheering the team and the new superstar leader who became just the seventh player in NBA history to score 50 or more points in a finals game.

    Stephanie Sy has the story.

  • Announcer:

    It's over. The Bucks have done it. The long wait has ended. After a half-century, the Milwaukee Bucks are NBA champions once again!

  • Stephanie Sy:

    A city ecstatic. The Milwaukee Bucks lifting up the Larry O'Brien Trophy, defeating the Phoenix Suns 105-98 in game six of the NBA finals.

    Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 50 points, snatched 14 rebounds, and posted five blocks in a virtuoso performance, earning him the finals MVP Award. On his big night, the superstar remembered where it all began.

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo:

    I started playing basketball just to help my family, tried to get them out of the struggle, the challenges we were facing when we were kids.

    I never thought ever that I'd be 26, and I would be sitting in this chair with this right here and this right here.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    Born in Greece to Nigerian parents, Antetokounmpo and his brothers sold trinkets on the streets to survive. He faced racism and hardship.

    But in Greece today, he's a hero. At the Kivotos Cafe, where a teenaged Antetokounmpo used to grab juice and a sandwich before basketball practice, they celebrate.

  • Kyriacos Hager (through translator):

    Antetokounmpo has brought not only basketball, but sporting role models back to this generation. He's no longer Giannis from Sepolia. At this moment, he's Giannis of the entire world.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    He first made a name for himself playing in Athens, and became known in the NBA as the Greek freak for his 6'11" frame, combined with explosive athleticism.

    A force to be sure, but he didn't pull off the championship alone. Khris Middleton made key plays in the Bucks' playoff run. Middleton and Antetokounmpo have played eight seasons together. After Giannis' initial contract with the Bucks expired, there were rumors he might leave, but the two-time MVP vowed to stay with Milwaukee, and, last night, it paid off.

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo:

    Eight years ago, eight-and-a-half years ago, when I came into the league, I didn't know where my next move will come from. You know, my mom was selling stuff in the street.

    Like, and now I'm here sitting at the top of the top. Don't let nobody tell you what you can't be and what you cannot do. You know, people told me I can't make free throws. I made my free throws tonight. And I'm a freaking champion.


  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (singing):

    I have been up like this.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    And freaking hungry.

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo:

    Can I have please a 50-piece mac-minis, 50 exactly.

  • Woman:


  • Giannis Antetokounmpo:

    Not 51, not 49 chicken minis, yes? Fifty.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    To honor snapping a 50-year title drought with a 50-point performance, a drive-through meal for the champ.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you have got to feel uplifted by that, no matter which team you're for.

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