Giannis Antetokounmpo makes all 16 of his shots, wins NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player

Jim Owczarski
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

With just under six minutes left in the third quarter of the NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta Sunday night, Giannis Antetokounmpo walked up to the three-point line and sized up defender Nikola Vučević. Antetokounmpo gave the Orlando big man a little head and shoulder shimmy before pulling up for a 27-foot three-pointer.

“No! No! No!” shouted TNT analyst Reggie Miller, rooting openly for the Milwaukee Bucks star to not miss a shot in the game.

Only for the second time in the game Antetokounmpo banked it in, turning the shouts to “Yes! Yes! Yes!” from Miller and fellow analyst Chris Webber.

It was the 16th straight made field goal for Antetokounmpo to give him his 35th and final point at that juncture of the game for Team LeBron James, and Antetokounmpo raced down the court with a smile on his face.

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Antetokounmpo said after the game he had no idea he was perfect from the field when he lifted that shot.

"When you're around guys like Dame (Lillard) and Steph (Curry) and Chris Paul, it's just easy," he said. "Nobody's worrying about me. I'm just playing my one-on-one, nobody's double-teaming. So, if you feel good, and I felt good, so I didn't care about missing. I just cared about having fun."

The shot was a unique highlight in Antetokounmpo’s performance Sunday night, and a fitting one as the 26-year-old captured the Kobe Bryant Most Valuable Player award as Team LeBron James beat Team Kevin Durant 170-150.

Team LeBron forward Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks celebrates after winning the NBA All-Star Game MVP award Sunday night.

Like many players in the league, Antetokounmpo shared a special connection with Bryant before the Lakers legend passed away on January 26, 2020.

"Obviously I'm extremely happy and just happy that an award named after Kobe Bryant in my house is a great feeling," Antetokounmpo said. 

He said he really wanted to win the award last year, but "this year I wasn't thinking about winning it and I was just thinking about having fun and I had the opportunity to play well. My teammates played great and I was able to win it. Just having a trophy (named) after Kobe Bryant, it's amazing. I know he would be happy."

Antetokounmpo becomes the 22nd player in NBA history to have won regular season and all-star game MVPs in their careers. He is also the first Bucks player to win the award.

"You see I love the history of the game, I love learning stuff about the game and you see players have had this trophy in the past and just being one of them, it's is an amazing feeling," he said. "I gotta keep working hard and I gotta keep enjoying the game of basketball and hopefully more things can come. 

"My goal is to be a champion one day and hopefully I can hold the big trophy."

Antetokounmpo finished the game perfect from the floor, an all-star game record 16 for 16, including 3 for 3 from the three-point line and seven rebounds and three assists.

"Hey man, I'm trying to do this back home, too, but they're not letting me so you guys gotta put the word in and tell them to let me shoot more threes," he quipped. "No, I'm joking. I was just having fun. Sometimes when you're just having fun you're not thinking about the outcome. It just happens. I just let my instincts take over. Obviously I've worked on it a lot over the summer, but I haven't used it as much in the season. But it's something that I feel like I can do it. Today was a game that did not count so yeah, I'll try it. It worked out."

The Bucks star outdueled his Team LeBron James teammate Stephen Curry for the award, who scored 28 points and hit seven three-pointers.

Bradley Beal led Team Durant with 28 points.

In the first half Antetokounmpo dueled with Curry, with the Bucks’ star scoring 24 points and the Warriors guard scoring 22. Curry played 15 minutes and went 8 for 11 from the field, including 6 for 8 on three-pointers. That included makes from 33, 34 and 42 feet.

Antetokounmpo went 11 for 11 from the floor and hit two, three-pointers of his own with a walk-up bank shot and a step-back from the side. Wearing a mic for the game, he shouted “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!” as he watched that shot go in. He also dropped a 6-foot hook shot in.

Of Antetokounmpo’s seven first half dunks, the highlight was a left-handed finish on a lob from Chris Paul.

Thanks to the 46 combined points from Antetokounmpo and Curry, Team LeBron took a 100-80 lead into halftime. Kyrie Irving (15 points) and Bradley Beal (14) points led Team Durant in the first half.