Antetokounmpo is MVP
LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Milwaukee Bucks star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for the 2018-19 regular season on Monday.
The 24-year-old from Greece, called the ‘Greek Freak’ wept as he accepted the honor at the glitzy NBA Awards show broadcast from Santa Monica, California, becoming the youngest MVP since Derrick Rose was the youngest winner ever in 2011.
Antetokounmpo beat out 2018 MVP James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George for the honor.
Antetokounmpo, in his sixth season with the Bucks, averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds as he led Milwaukee to the best regular-season record in the league with 60 wins and 22 defeats. They reached the Eastern Conference finals where they fell to the Toronto Raptors, who would go on to lift the title.
“I want to thank my team, my teammates,” Antetokounmpo said. “It takes more than one person to win 60 games. Every time I walked to the locker room I saw my teammates were ready to fight, they were ready to go to war with me.”
He also thanked a coaching staff led by head coach Mike Budenholzer, who was named Coach of the Year earlier in the evening.
And he cited the management and ownership of the club “for believing in me when I was 18 years old back in Greece.”
Antetokounmpo struggled to get the words out as he also gave thanks to his late father, Charles Antetokounmpo, who died in 2017.
“Every day I step on the floor, I always think of my dad,” he said.
Antetokounmpo became the first Bucks player named MVP since 1974 when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - a three-time MVP in Milwaukee - took home the award.
NBA legend Abdul-Jabbar introduced Antetokounmpo as a finalist during the show.
Antetokounmpo also joined Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria), Tim Duncan (US Virgin Islands), Steve Nash (Canada) and Dirk Nowitzki (Germany) as the only international MVPs.
Slovenia’s Luca Doncic won the Rookie of the Year award after a stellar campaign for the Dallas Mavericks.
Doncic, 20, joined Jason Kidd as the only Mavericks to win Rookie of the Year, Kidd sharing the honor with Detroit’s Grant Hill for the 1994-95 season.
Doncic was widely expected to scoop the award despite a late-season surge by Atlanta point guard Trae Young, the player for whom Doncic was traded on draft night in 2018.
Doncic averaged 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists for the 33-49 Mavericks, compared to Young’s averages of 19.1 points, 8.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds for the 29-53 Hawks.
He became the second player, after 1961 Rookie of the Year winner Oscar Robertson, to average at least 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists per game in his first year.
His eight triple-doubles were third-most by a rookie behind Robertson’s 26 and Ben Simmons’ 12.
Cameroon’s Pascal Siakam, who starred in his NBA Finals debut for Toronto, was named Most Improved Player.
Siakam, 25, scored a playoff career-best 32 points in powering the Raptors over defending champions Golden State in a 118-109 game-one victory in the championship series.
Siakam, who beat out D’Angelo Russell and De’Aaron Fox for the award, averaged 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game in 2018-19.
That was up from 7.3 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game and 2.0 assists per game the previous season. He made 79 three-pointers in the regular season compared to 29 in the previous campaign.
The Los Angeles Clippers’ Lou Williams won the Sixth Man of the Year award as top reserve for the second straight year and third time in his career.
Defensive Player of the Year went to Utah’s French center Rudi Gobert. The “Stifle Tower” won the award for the second straight season, beating Antetokounmpo and George in the final voting.