Giannis Antetokounmpo’s acceptance speech lasted all of five minutes, and it could have been over in much less time had he not kept on choking up. He was clearly overwhelmed by the occasion, never mind that he had long been tipped to claim the Maurice Podoloff Trophy in leading the Bucks to a regular-season-best 60 wins. Even as he failed to cap his 2018-19 campaign with a championship, he proved to be the best of the best of the National Basketball Association by far. Like all and sundry, he knew how well he did — enough, at least, to prepare for his time in the podium yesterday.
Still, Antetokounmpo could be forgiven for giving in to his emotions on stage at the Barker Hangar in Los Angeles. His was a decidedly remarkable feat as the third-youngest recipient of the Most Valuable Player award in the last four decades, not to mention just the fifth born outside the United States to hoist the hardware. And, his sterling stat lines notwithstanding, he figures to get even better. His exacting work ethic and commitment to excellence make it a foregone conclusion. Developing a consistent stroke from the perimeter is a matter of when, not if, and when it’s there, he will be tapping virtually unlimited potential.
Significantly, Antetokounmpo’s ascent to the top was a popular one. Granted, it was aided by the type of narrative that invariably resonates with voters. That said, there can be no denying the manner in which he took advantage of the opportunity to shine. With erstwhile King of the East LeBron James transferring conferences, he rose to the throne with authority, backstopped by a new system that maximized his talents and a supporting cast that gladly toiled for the collective. It’s why he was generous in his praise of his coaches and teammates, and why his declaration that the accolade is a shared one didn’t come off as mere lip service.
No doubt, Antetokounmpo will use his latest achievement as motivation to do much, much more. He rightly thanked God for his “amazing” skill set, and he spoke of how his overwhelming desire to honor its source drove him to perform even when he didn’t feel well. Certainly, the mindset is what will lead him to sustained success. After all, what matters is not what he does when things come easy, but how he manages to forge ahead when they don’t.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing the Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.