During this month’s NBA Finals, many faith-related stories focused on Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams. But the Milwaukee Bucks, who defeated the Suns in the deciding game six Tuesday night, also have on their roster outspoken Christians who give glory to God. As the Bucks and their fans celebrate the team’s first championship in 50 years, two stars are making headlines for discussing their faith.
NBA Finals MVP Does ‘Everything’ Through Christ
After his 50-point performance in Tuesday’s series-winning game, Milwaukee Bucks standout Giannis Antetokounmpo told reporters he’s “extremely blessed” and wants to “give everybody around the world hope.” As the child of Nigerian parents who immigrated to Greece, Antetokounmpo endured poverty and started playing basketball primarily “to help my family,” he says.
The versatile 26-year-old, who’s been with the Bucks since they drafted him in 2013, was named the NBA regular-season MVP in 2019 and 2020. “First of all, I want to thank God for blessing me with this amazing talent,” Antetokounmpo said while accepting the 2019 MVP trophy. “Everything I do, I do through him. I’m extremely blessed.” The player is being praised for his loyalty to the Bucks, as well as for his humility, which he describes as his “mindset.”
Known as the Greek Freak, Antetokounmpo is Greek Orthodox and speaks fondly of his time in Sunday school. He was baptized in 2012 and wrote in a 2015 blog that his motto, based on 2 Corinthians 5:7, is “Walk by Faith, NOT by sight.”
A priest from Antetokounmpo’s childhood describes him this way: “I don’t remember him ever complaining or having a sense of being wronged by life and being aggressive towards society. He may be flying on the court, but in real life, I think he stands firmly on his feet.”
‘This Is Only God,’ Says Bucks Guard
Joining his teammate in crediting God for victory is Milwaukee guard Jrue Holiday, who was traded to the Bucks just before the season tipped off. Holiday, who scored 12 points in the game-six win, said afterward, “This is such a blessing, man. This is only God.” Earlier in the playoffs, he said God had blessed him and put him “in a position to go to the Finals.”
Holiday, who’s been vocal about his faith since playing collegiately at UCLA, said last year, “Making Christ a priority is huge because without him I wouldn’t be here. None of us would.” The 31-year-old guard says he’s happy in his supporting role with the Bucks, who humbly support one another with “no envy or jealousy.”
Five years ago, Holiday took an indefinite leave from basketball when his wife, Lauren, was diagnosed with a brain tumor while pregnant. After giving birth, she had surgery and recovered, and the couple’s second child was born late last year, during the pandemic. (Holiday contracted and recovered from COVID-19 this spring.) “I’m a Christian athlete who has faith in Jesus Christ,” Holiday said in a previous interview. “So when I encounter circumstances over which I have no control, I believe and have peace.”
Next up, Holiday heads to Tokyo with Team USA, aiming to become a gold medalist like his wife, a championship soccer player.