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Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) holds the finals MVP trophy after the Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of basketball's NBA Finals in Milwaukee, Tuesday, July 20, 2021. The Bucks won 105-98. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Big Bucks

Milwaukee has been known for a few things through the years.

It was the place made famous in those great Miller Lite commercials in the 1970s. The Brew Crew — called Harvey's Wallbangers by some — with Yount and Cecil Cooper and a slew of characters were in the 1980s. So were the very good Bucks, who like the Hawks were never good enough to topple the Celtics or 76ers before the Pistons became Bad and MJ became the GOAT. Heck, there was the great "Wayne's World" scene when Alice Cooper breaks down the Native American definition of the name Milly-Walk-KAY, which as we all know now is Algonquin for "The Good Land."

 This morning, it's known as the home of the NBA champs.

And the home of Giannis Antetokounmpo. Known as the Greek Freak because of his unicornian combination of traits and skills, Giannis was the best player on the planet in the six games the Bucks needed to best the Suns.

There's a lot to get to with him, because what he just completed was incredible, in terms of numbers and nature, even if an incredibly low number of folks saw it. (Side note: While it will be a day or so before the clinching Game 6 numbers are in, the TV ratings for the critical Game 5 were dreadful. Saturday night's 4.8 rating with 9.62 million viewers was down 55% from 2019's Game 5 between the Warriors and Raptors. It's the least-watched, non-bubbled Game 5 since Spurs-Nets in 2003.)

And while we're here, much will eventually be made about Chris Paul losing his last best chance to win a ring. The Suns were up 2-0 and a lot of us were thinking Sweep. (Congrats JTC who had a) Giannis playing and b) Bucks winning before the series.)

And the career shortcomings in terms of titles will haunt CP3, but Tuesday he balled, finishing 11-of-19 for a team-high 26. Sidekicks Devin Booker (8-of-22 and bagel of 7 from distance with six turnovers) and Deandre Ayton (4-of-12, only six boards in 36 minutes) were really bad.

But with the way Giannis was locked in, I'm not sure it would have mattered. He finished with 50 Tuesday. Yes, a 50-burger in a clinching title game. That's big-tip for the big-timers. He finished 17-of-19 from the line and had 14 rebounds and five blocks.

In doing so he gets to get on one of those lists where it's you and a name or two everyone recognizes as an all-timer. Want to know the guys who have a regular-season MVP, an All-Star game MVP, a Defensive Player of the Year Award and a Finals MVP? Before last night it was just some dude named Jordan. Now it's two dudes named MJ and Giannis.

The entire series of numbers — his final stat line puts him as the only player in Finals history to average at least 35 points, 13 boards and five assists while shooting better than 60 percent from the field — make this one of the best efforts ever.  But that's not my biggest takeaway.

Nor were the epic scenes — some will call them delta variant superspreaders — as the Bucks fans cashed in on 50 years of frustration with their first NBA title since Kareem answered to Lew in 1971.

As unique as all of that is — and as special — my take is great for Giannis, the team builder. In an age of super teams and big threes and players using their power to force one-and-one contracts (one-year deals with a player option if they don't like things), Giannis stayed. And he delivered on his July 16 social media promise in 2014 after his first season with the Bucks when he tweeted "I'll never leave the team and the city of Milwaukee till we build the team to a championship level team."

Mission accomplished.

Giannis cultivated and worked — on his team and his game. He became a one-name type of talent and made title-competent players want to come to Milly-Walk-KAY. That's the exception these days. Giannis' above tweet was a month after LeBron played his final game with Miami, before heading back to Cleveland and eventually moving on to L.A.

I understand players wanting to play with the best, especially when media gasbags like me far too often grade all-time greatness in terms of titles over tenure.

Yeah, I understand. That doesn't mean you don't hurt for the Cavs fans who loved his team when Mark Price and Co. broke their hearts and suffered like few others before LeBron landed. And let's be honest, the Cavs fans are doomed for the foreseeable future.

And I understand that and also wanting to play in LA or NYC or Miami, places that are wicked fun for 20-somethings with eight-plus-figure bank accounts.

I get it. But it doesn't detract from the apex of respect Giannis earned by staying in Milly-Walk-KAY and delivering on his word and his talents.

 

Media Daze

OK, you know the rules. Here's Paschall on Josh Heupel saying all the right things about being Tennessee's new coach. Here's Paschall as well on Georgia and its preparations.

(Side note: After listening to and watching some of the SEC Media Days coverage Tuesday, I have heavily invested in Georgia at plus-250 (bet $100 and win $250) to win the SEC. I love their defense. I think their QB is ready to roll. Their tight end group features the two best players at the position, talent wise, in the country. Their wide receiver room is so loaded that they lost a transfer to Auburn who likely figures to be the Tigers No. 1 or 2 pass catcher, and we're not sure he would have done more than mop-up time and special teams in Athens. And their running back core is deeper and better than all of those. And they are one of the SEC teams north of 85% in the vaccination rankings. Game on, Kirby. The time is now.)

All of that is well and good of course, but we must remember that it's still July. For 10 more days in fact.

So the biggest storyline on my interest meter from Hoover was far from the field or what may happen on it.

The biggest news from SEC Media Days on Tuesday was the staggering announcement that Alabama sophomore quarterback Bryce Young, according to coach Nick Saban, who is far from Twainian in his level of hyperbole, has made close to $1 million in Name, Image and Likeness deals.

Holy buckets of Benjamins, Batman. My first reaction was, "Wow, we've had NIL for less than three weeks and dude has closed seven figures. Somewhere Don Draper is smiling over his Old Fashioned." My second reaction was akin to Vader's: "Good luck wading into the cash-deep end of the recruiting pool with Saban, who understandably wants this circulating like wildfire to five-star prospects on Alabama's wish list." My third was, "Uh, he has not played a meaningful snap yet, so who is giving him all this coin?"

My final and most relevant reaction, though, was, "Good for Bryce Young."

The dude is the trigger man for the biggest entertainment engine in the entire state. In modern-day dollars, that's worth well more than $1 million, and a helluva, Helluva, HELLUVA lot more than books, tuition and all the snacks you want from the mess hall.

 

Speaking of college football

OK, a couple of other things around the college football landscape also caught my eye.

Hey, it's a heckuva a lot better than discussing LeBron's son at summer league hoops or chapter 4,506 on Aaron Rodgers not being happy in Green Bay. (Hey, ESPN, we get it. Aaron Rodgers wants out. But are Stephen A. and Max really going to cover any new turf discussing this for the umpteenth thousandth time? I guess we'll find out on "First Take," huh?)

First, there was Dabo Swinney saying he's against the 12-team playoff. Of course he is.

It's foolish not to see that Swinney has the easiest path to the playoff these days in an ACC that is looking to Mack Brown or Manny Diaz to fashion a challenge to Dabo's dazzling Clemson crew.

Why would he want an extra SEC team or a tough Big Ten runner-up added to the mix, because the potential of an extra round against a quality foe is far riskier for Dabo's situation than the reward of having the mulligan out there for his Tigers?

So his personal perspective is noted. But his overarching statement — he's not sure there are 12 teams good enough — is pretty telling. And hard to argue with if us Auburn fans are being honest.

And his question about playing more games — something that has long been questioned in terms of financial rewards as well as player safety — is also fair. (And that's the rub on the folks who want the 'ol State U and the way college sports used to be when the QB dated the homecoming queen and you could see Johnny Power Forward walking to class with his textbooks under his right arm, which is covered in his letterman's sweater. We want them to be satisfied with a scholarship and be student-athletes when the system is making billions and the number of games and time of preparation makes it harder to be a student-athlete than a professional athlete.)

The second eye-popper for me was Deion Sanders walking out of the SWAC Media Days event because a reporter called him by his first name.

"If you call Nick [Saban] Nick, you'll get cussed out on the spot, so don't do that to me," Sanders said, according to the Clarion-Ledger. "Treat me like Nick."

OK, where to begin. First, I know personally of a slew of reporters who have called Nick Saban "Nick" and done it in public settings and have not been railed on or cussed at by Saban. What a crock.

Secondly, uh, Deion — who is adamant about being called "Coach Prime" which may make him related to Optimus Prime of "Transformer" fame — you are light years from being able to set the standards or compare yourself to Nick 'BLEEPIN' Saban in terms of coaching.

Third, after the fact, Deion pulled the classic, "Fake News" defense on Twitter, posting: "Never walked out of media day. I prolonged my time to answer another question & the person thought it was cute to address me the way he did so I dropped the call & went to the next outlet. Please don't allow a fool to fool u because then nobody would truly know who the fool is."

Finally, when Deion is going to demand toughness in the moment — mentally and physically — from his players, I guess he'll just need to trust they do what he says and not what he does, huh?  

 

This and that

— So Jeff Bezos went to space. Cool. And for all the folks bellyaching about Bezos spending hundreds of millions if not billions on his space excursion rather than charitable efforts, just shut it. It's his $200 billion fortune. He can do whatever he wants. That said, I would be A-OK with him paying his fair share in terms of percentages in income taxes, though.

— God bless you Touki Toussant, who was aces in the Braves' 2-1 win over a very legit San Diego team. And who else was tickled 12 shades of pink in the knowledge that AJ Minter was not coming out of the 'pen last night?

— While we are here, new Braves outfielder Joe Peterson bunted for a single off Yu Darvish to beat the shift last night. It was glorious.

— Oh my, the U.S. women's soccer team got smoked in their Olympics opener Wednesday morning. Maybe they should have spent less time on social issues and a little more time on soccer practice, huh?

— Holy buckets of blurts, but this is crazy stupid and outlandish — even for a small-town Alabama guy. Uh, Tommy Bryant, a Tarrant, Ala., city councilman, now would be a good time to delete any social media avenues you may have since, according to the Daily Beast, you were caught on tape saying, "Do we have a house [N-word] in here? Do we? Do we? Will she please stand up?" Bryant claims he said it to point out what a Black colleague said earlier. Uh, Tommy. No.

— I'll say it: God bless Dolly Parton. She is an American treasure.

 

Today's questions

Which way Wednesday starts this way.

We asked this on social media last night as Touki Toussiant was dealing: Which MLB player sounds the most like a fringe-level "Star Wars," character because Touki Toussant is certainly a contender?

I love the draft. Which is the best NBA draft pick of all time? Is Giannis at No. 15 in the 2013 NBA draft the best pick since MJ at 3 in '84?

Which surprises you more, Bryce Young making a million in three weeks or Deion Sanders acting the fool and then blaming the media?

Fire away on a Which Way Wednesday.

As for today, July 21, let's review.

On this day in 1925, John Scopes was found guilty in Dayton, Tenn.

Neil Armstrong became the first person to step on the moon at 2:56.15 a.m. in 1969.

Wow, "The Daily Show" turns 25 today. Gang, I have a whole dissertation on how "The Daily Show" led us to where we are now in terms of broadcast news. Maybe for another time.

Robin Williams would have been 70 today. Rushmore of actors who started as stand-up comedians. Go.

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