There’s a reason why he’s called the Greek Freak.
And Giannis Antetokounmpo delivered Exhibit A late in Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
With the Milwaukee Bucks holding on to a two-point lead with just over a minute remaining, the Suns’ Devin Booker tossed an alley-oop pass to Deandre Ayton. Antetokounmpo rose to the occasion to block Ayton’s shot and preserve the Bucks’ lead.
Milwaukee went on to win, 109-103, tying of the best-of-seven championship series at two games apiece, and keeping the Bucks’ chances alive to win the franchise’s first NBA championship since 1971.
“Just a hustle play. I thought I was going to get dunked on, to be honest with you,” Antetokounmpo said. “But you know, going down the stretch, just do whatever it takes to win the game. Just put yourself in a position that can win the game.
“I saw the play coming. I saw that (Devin Booker) was going to throw the lob and I was just going to jump vertical toward the rim. Hopefully I can be there in time, and I was there in time and was able to get a good block and go down and get two points.
“So it was a great hustle play.”
Bucks teammate Pat Connaughton said he was in “shock and awe” over the block.
“In my opinion, it’s the best block of all time. Obviously, we’re a little biased and you can talk about the LeBron (James) block as well,” Connaughton said, referring to LeBron James’ block in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. “But as far as a block where he was covering the pick-and-roll, he had to judge where the pass was, where Ayton was catching it and trying to dunk it, above the box, it’s about as impressive as you can get.”
Connaughton continued to analyze why he thought Antetokounmpo’s block was better than James’ 2016 play.
“I would look at the criteria of greatest block of all time based off of difficulty of the block and then time and score,” Connaughton said. “Obviously, LeBron’s time and score probably has the edge in that situation because of when it was and helped them literally win a championship that game. But I think the difference between the time and score difference and then the difficulty of the block difference, gives the edge to Giannis just because a chase-down block, you have a little bit more of an ability to read, and obviously it’s a great block and we’re talking about two of the greatest blocks of all time and I don’t want to discredit that block.
“But Giannis was guarding the pick-and-roll, that’s a play that they have done time and time again. Book threw a great pass, threw it high and away from any defender and Giannis was able to recover. He’s defensive player of the year, two-time MVP for a reason, and I think it’s those types of plays to be able to read where Ayton is, where the ball is, and to have the athleticism to get that high and get literally all of the basketball is why I would give the edge to him.”
This wasn’t Antetokounmpo’s first mind-blowing block in the 2021 NBA Finals.
In Game 1 of the Finals, Antetokounmpo – in his first action since hyperextending his left knee in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals – had a chase-down block of a Mikal Bridges layup attempt. ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy noted on the game broadcast how Antetokounmpo’s block of Bridges was reminiscent of James’ legendary play on Andre Iguodala in the 2016 Finals.
Now, it seems, Antetokounmpo has two block plays in the all-time conversation.