Tom Stangl

Let me start by saying I’m not a basketball fan. I enjoy watching a good high school basketball game in person, hearing the squeaking shoes, holding your breath as the ball arcs towards the basket. 

Pro basketball? Not my thing. I was a bandwagon fan of the Los Angeles Lakers in the Jerry West/Elgin Baylor/Wilt Chamberlain days. Same for the Bulls in the Michael Jordan/Scott Pippen/Dennis Rodman glory days. You would have to be a real hater not to love those teams. Exceptional talents, true teamwork.

Last week, the Milwaukee Bucks won their first NBA title in 50 years, coming back from a 2-game deficit to the Phoenix Suns to win four games in a row. That’s an astounding accomplishment.

In the week that followed, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the MVP of the series, has become the subject of a great deal of attention. Antetokounmpo, a Nigerian who played in Greece before coming to the NBA, is being noticed for his words, as well as for his accomplishments on the court. 

And, make no mistake, the seven-foot tall Antetokounmpo is accomplished on the court. He scored 50 points in the Buck’s win in game 4. He’s the only player in NBA history with 5 All-Star selections, 5 All-NBA selections, multiple MVPs, 1 Finals MVP and 1 DPOY before his 27th birthday.

Antetokounmpo signed a five-year supermax contract extension prior to the start of this season because he felt after two trips to the playoffs, there was “unfinished business.”

After the win in game six, Antetokounmpo said “Coming back, I was like, ‘This is my city. They trust me. They believe in me. They believe in us.’ ... Obviously I wanted to get the job done. But that’s my stubborn side. It’s easy to go somewhere and go win a championship with somebody else. It’s easy. ... I could go to a super team and just do my part and win a championship. But this is the hard way to do it, and this is the way to do it, and we did it.”

Antetokounmpo also spoke about the power of family, believing in yourself and your dreams and displayed a tremendous amount of humility for someone so young.

“Eight years ago, eight and a half years ago, when I came to the league, I didn’t know where my next meal will come from. My mom was selling stuff in the street. Now I’m here sitting at the top of the top. I’m extremely blessed. I’m extremely blessed. If I never have a chance to sit on this table ever again, I’m fine with it. I’m fine with it. I hope this can give everybody around the world hope. I want them to believe in their dreams.”

A viral video of Giannis buying 50 sandwiches at a fast-food drive through after the win shows a humble and friendly superstar. Antetokounmpo is a gentle giant off the court, a fitting role model at a time when we sorely need one.

Watching and reading the coverage of Antetokounmpo, I became enamored of his belief in his dreams and, by extension, our nation.

This is the power of our nation. America continues to be reflected in the hopes, dreams and accomplishments of the immigrants who come here for a better life. Every time I hear and see this story, my faith in our nation is renewed.

As always, I welcome your comments. You can reach me by email at tstangl@theameryfreepress.com, telephone 715-268-8101 or write me at P.O. Box 424, Amery, WI, 54001.

Thanks for reading. I’ll keep in touch. Feel free to do the same. 

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