Giannis Antetokounmpo cheered a sold-out Paris crowd with 30 brilliant points and 16 rebounds to lead the Milwaukee Bucks against the Charlotte Hornets 116-103 on Friday in a historic first-ever NBA regular-season game in Paris.
The Friday game had football stars present like Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar and Kylian Mbappe at the courtside and NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was saluted with thunderous applause when he was presented to the bulging crowd at the AccorHotels Arena.
Michael Jordan, the world greatest NBA player who is now the Hornets’ chairman, has done far beyond expectation to spread the sport’s popularity around the world and he told reporters before the game: “I’m glad that I was a part of it but I think it will continually get bigger because of the passion for the game of basketball.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had told reporters before the game that the NBA would return to Paris for “many more years to come”.
The Bucks bored its supporters with sluggish moves in the first half and trailed the Hornets until the end of the third quarter when George Hill slashed to the basket for an easy layup and reigning league Most Valuable Player Antetokounmpo imposed himself around the rim on the way to his brilliant double-double.
Malik Monk was the top-scorer for the Hornets with 31 points but the Eastern Conference-leading Bucks just had too many weapons and Antetokounmpo’s powerful dunk with five minutes remaining was the sign that the game was as good as over as a contest.
After a leveled start, the Greek playmaker, who will again captain against LeBron James in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game, became very active in the second quarter when he wrestled the ball from Cody Zeller and reverse-slammed over the struggling Hornet.
Giannis Antetokounmpo said that the journey to Europe had already taken its toll in the early stages.
“We didn’t a play for four days, but that’s no excuse. We started the game and we weren’t playing basketball we usually play. Hopefully, we can learn from this today and learn that they are not just going to give us the game, we have to fight for it,” he said.
Antetokounmpo noted that the atmosphere in the Paris arena had been “amazing. It felt for everybody like we were playing at home,” he added.
Experienced Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe played a great assist for Antetokounmpo and finished with 20 points on his own.
French national team captain Nicolas Batum’s presence in the Charlotte lineup helped ensure their involvement in the historic game. Although he had only five points all his moves were cheered loudly by his supporters.