After a season that included an All-Star captaincy, a first-team All-NBA honor, a first-team All-Defense selection, the best record in the NBA and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo capped off his superb campaign in fitting fashion on Monday night, beating out Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Paul George for the 2018-19 Most Valuable Player award.
Milwaukee’s head coach Mike Budenholzer also took home some hardware on Monday, topping Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers and Michael Malone of the Denver Nuggets for the Coach of the Year award.
Budenholzer, who won the 2014-15 honor, as well, is only the seventh coach to win COY for multiple franchises. And with general manager Jon Horst capturing the NBA Executive of the Year award, the 2018-19 Bucks became just the third team to sweep the MVP, COY and EOY awards in the same season.
Click here for every 2018-19 NBA award finalist and winner.
Antetokounmpo, who offered an incredibly heartfelt and sincere acceptance speech on Monday, averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game for the 60-win Bucks this year. He is the first player to hit those marks in NBA history.
Over the second half of the season, the MVP award turned into a historic two-horse race between Harden and Antetokounmpo as other competitors fell off the pace. Harden – last year’s MVP winner – was unmatched as an offensive force this year, dropping 36.1 ppg and 7.5 apg, including nine games in which he topped the 50-point mark. But in the end, Antetokounmpo’s two-way dominance as the best player on the best team in the league won out.
Despite his 2017-18 success, Harden has largely been the bridesmaid in the MVP voting, as he has finished second, first, second, ninth, second, fifth and eighth over his seven seasons with the Rockets. Antetokounmpo could be on a similar pace; he has now piled up three consecutive top-seven MVP finishes. While the 2018-19 season will long be remembered as the end of the Golden State dynasty, the MVP race featuring two potential all-timers will not soon be forgotten.
At 24 years old, Antetokounmpo is the 10th-youngest player ever recognized as the league’s MVP. The four others to win the award in their age-24 season – Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Dave Cowens – combined to total 56 All-Star appearances and 17 NBA titles. We already knew Giannis was on a path to greatness, but that unparalleled company means his career could soar to even loftier heights.
The Greek Freak is also just the fourth international MVP in NBA history, joining Nigeria’s Hakeem Olajuwon (1994), Canada’s Steve Nash (2005, 2006) and Germany’s Dirk Nowitzki (2007). As the greatest Greek player in NBA history by a margin as wide as the Aegean Sea, Antetokoumpo flies the flag of Greece with pride and reportedly plans to play for his homeland’s national team at the FIBA World Cup in China this summer.
Of course, Greece isn’t all Giannis is representing when he hits the court. Antetokounmpo has made Milwaukee his home since the Bucks drafted him 15th overall in 2013. Antetokounmpo has put the Cream City on the hoops map, and has been instrumental in the organization’s initial success at the Fiserv Forum and its surrounding Deer District entertainment area.
With Antetokounmpo’s MVP award, paired with Christian Yelich’s NL MVP honor for the Brewers in 2018, Milwaukee now has the reigning MVPs in both the NBA and the MLB, something that has only happened 11 times in the joint history of the two leagues and just twice in the 21st century.
Milwaukee: Christian Yelich (2018), Giannis Antetokounmpo (2018-19)
Houston: Jose Altuve (2017), James Harden (2017-18)
Chicago: Michael Jordan (1997-98), Sammy Sosa (1998)
Houston: Hakeem Olajuwon (1993-94), Jeff Bagwell (1994)
Los Angeles: Kirk Gibson (1988), Magic Johnson (1988-89)
Chicago: Andre Dawson (1987), Michael Jordan (1987-88)
Boston: Larry Bird (1985-86), Roger Clemens (1986)
Philadelphia: Mike Schmidt (1980), Julius Erving (1980-81), Schmidt (1981)
Los Angeles: Don Baylor (1979), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1979-80)
Boston: Bill Russell (1957-58), Jackie Jensen (1958)
With Yelich on another unprecedented tear that has him squarely in NL MVP contention for the second straight summer and the Bucks set up to contend well into the future, Milwaukee’s pro sports pillars should remain in the headlines for years to come.
When Brian's not writing about sports, he is probably prattling on about Marquette hoops, digging through statistics, or re-binging his favorite television series. Any conversation that begins with a quote from "The Office" or "West Wing" is a surefire way to grab his attention.