Giannis Antetokounmpo has won his first NBA title, following on from his two league MVP awards. Kobe Bryant played a role in inspiring the Greek to take his game to the next level, something the newly crowned champion reflected on after defeating the Phoenix Suns in Game 6.
Back in 2017, the Milwaukee Bucks star messaged Bryant on Twitter to ask for a challenge. The response was to win the MVP award and, when Antetokounmpo won his first in 2019, Bryant then set him the challenge of winning a title.
Bryant may not have lived to see the Greek win his first ring, but Antetokounmpo paid tribute to the LA Laker legend in his post-game press conference.
“This started almost like a joke at first,” he said after the Game 6 win.
“It was, I think, a Nike ad, and he was sending a challenge to players. I was like ‘yeah, let me just shoot my shot’. I was like ‘what’s my challenge?’
“When he [replied with the challenge of winning MVP], he made me believe. I’m like ‘Kobe Bryant thinks I can do this and play in the higher level and lead my team and win MVP?’
“I had to do it. I had to work hard. Not necessarily to not let him down. I had to work hard because people believed that I can do it.
“That’s the thing. I’m a people pleaser. I don’t like letting people down.
When I re-signed with the city of Milwaukee, that’s the main reason I re-signed. Because I didn’t want to let people down and think that I don’t work extremely hard for them, which I do.
“Being able to accomplish those things in this period of time, it’s crazy. It’s unreal.”