The real "nike"

It started late, it was grueling, and it went on forever, but the American men's pro basketball season ended last night in Milwaukee. The home team, the Bucks, defeated to Phoenix Suns to take the final series, 4 games to 2.

The Suns had started the series like supermen, but they came down to earth after two wins, and the Deer won four straight.

The star of the show, by far, was the Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo, a tremendously gifted big man with energy galore. He scored 50 points in the last game. He had been hobbled by a sore knee earlier in the playoffs, but his teammates held things together quite well in his absence, and he came roaring back when he was needed most. The "Greek Freak," they call him. He is the son of Nigerian immigrants to Athens. He is also a force of nature.

The Giannis story is interesting to Portlanders, in that he was determined to win a championship, and did so, while staying with the small-market team on which he started in the league. This is the same plan that the Blazers' superstar, Damian Lillard, has espoused, but unlike the Blazers, the Bucks actually made an effort to put, and keep, a few great players around Giannis. In contrast, the Blazers have not come up with such a strong supporting cast for Lillard. They move B-list journeymen in and out annually, and some of their long-term bets, particularly with big men, have been duds.

But enough about the hapless Blazers. Lillard's in Tokyo, and the rest of them are golfing. Today it's party time in Milwaukee. I have some good friends there, one from 51 years ago and another from 46. If I had to guess, I'd say they are at least mild Bucks fans, and so they are feeling pretty good along with their city this morning. It's the first NBA championship there in 50 years. But in another parallel to Portland, they are having problems with guns downtown around the bars, and there was a little of that last night to mar the occasion.

Now we finally turn basketball off our screens for a few months. It will be a relief. The announcers for the finals did their usual shtick, and it gets old. One annoyance was the way play-by-play man Mike Breen insists on calling everyone by their last names, even when that's clumsy. He calls LeBron "James." He spent the whole finals saying "Antetokounmpo" over and over. If he went to a Prince concert, he would have said he saw "Nelson." Maybe it's a statement about equality among players. Whatever it was, it almost made me reach for the mute button a couple of times. Breen will never fall into Joe Buck territory, or that tired guy who calls the Mariners, but he's close to the borderline.

Now it's on to baseball for a while, I guess. With seven-inning games, artificial base runners during extra innings, pitchers being busted for sticky stuff, speedometers galore, and an extensive array of statistics of unknown meaning. They stopped the spitting and crotch-grabbing. They put up a lot more screens to protect the folks in the good seats. Here on the West Coast in midsummer, nearly every televised game is a day game. Great for your afternoon nap.