Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo couldn’t miss in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game.
Literally, not figuratively.
The Bucks star made all 16 shots he attempted and had 35 points for Team LeBron in a 170-150 victory over Team Durant.
Golden State's Steph Curry picked up right where he left off as winner of the 3-point contest that took place just before the All-Star Game. He made an All-Star record seven 3s in the first half — some from near halfcourt — and finished with 28 points.
Damian Lillard matched Curry’s eight 3s and had 32 points, scoring the winning basket on a 3-pointer from just over halfcourt. Dame Time indeed.
So in a game full of stars compiling big stats, who gets the NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP award? Any of the three were viable options.
When in doubt, go with the player who was perfect.
Giannis Antetokounmpo celebrates his first All-Star MVP award. (Photo: Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports)
Antetokounmpo picked up his first All-Star MVP in a game in which he became the first player in NBA history to shoot 100% from the field on 10 or more shots.
"Obviously, I'm extremely happy at just having the award with the name of Kobe Bryant in my house," he said. "It's a great feeling. I wanted to win the one last year really bad, and I had a chance to win because I felt like I wanted to have the trophy in my house. But this year I wasn't even thinking about winning it. I was just thinking about having fun, and I had the opportunity to play well."
Antetokounmpo, a two-time regular season MVP, had nine dunks, including his first three makes, and finished his scoring with a 3-pointer he banked in off the backboard, his second 3-point bank of the game.
Giannis banks in the 3 and he’s 16-16 from the field! 👌🤯
"Hey, man, I'm trying to do this back home, too, but they're not letting me," Antetokounmpo said. "So, you guys got to put the word in and tell them to let me shoot more 3s. No, I'm joking."
With his first pick in the All-Star draft, LeBron James, who is 4-0 as an All-Star GM, selected Antetokounmpo. With his second pick, he took Curry.
"That's why I drafted them, man," James said. "It's guys that I obviously compete against on a nightly basis, but guys that I'm just in awe of."
There was a special father-son moment just before the game when Antetokounmpo and his son, Liam, took turns dribbling a basketball on the sideline near halfcourt.
"It's a great feeling having Liam come watch me play this first All-Star Game (and) being able to play good," he said. "It's amazing. But at the end of the day I just want Liam to see somebody that's having fun, somebody that plays with joy, enjoy what he does. I didn't care about the outcome, but that's what I wanted him to see. That's what I wanted him to grow into."
This Giannis and Liam moment ❤️ pic.twitter.com/RmYmd4WM2B
The Bucks star made five shots in the first quarter, six in the second and five in the third. He also had seven rebounds and three assists.
Antetokounmpo might not be in the middle of another MVP season, but he’s still an All-Star and headed for one of the three All-NBA teams. He is averaging 29.0 points, 11.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists and is shooting 55.7% for the Bucks, who are in third place behind Philadelphia and Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference.
Just before the season began, Antetokounmpo signed a max contract extension with the Bucks, a $228 million deal. But the past two seasons, the Bucks have fallen short, losing to Toronto in the 2019 conference finals and Miami in the 2020 conference semifinals.
The Bucks and Antetokounmpo invested in each other in hopes of winning a title, but the 26-year-old superstar wants to avoid the pressure of those expectations.
"I've got to keep working hard and I've got to keep enjoying the game of basketball, and hopefully more important things can come," he said. "My goal is to be a champion one day. Hopefully we can hold the big trophy."
"Once you start having joy and you don't worry about the outcome of the game, everything takes care of itself," he said. "I believe fear and fun cannot go together. It's either one or the other. This year I've chose for it to be fun."
As Antetokounmpo's press conference ended, he lifted the MVP trophy and said, "Milwaukee, this is for you."
Antetokounmpo, the Bucks and Milwaukee would also like to lift another trophy sometime in July.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.
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