Giannis Antetokounmpo hailed the Milwaukee Bucks for putting aside the excitement of receiving their NBA championship rings prior to Tuesday's dominant 127-104 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
The Bucks reminded the star-studded Nets who runs the Eastern Conference in their emphatic season-opening victory at Fiserv Forum, where Antetokounmpo led the defending champions with 32 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks.
Antetokounmpo and his Bucks team-mates received their championship rings in a glittering pre-game ceremony in front of a sell-out crowd in Milwaukee before blowing out Kevin Durant and the Nets in a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference semi-final.
"It was hard. Obviously very excited for the ring and seeing our banner," Antetokounmpo told ESPN after his double-double display.
"It's been hard to balance that, going from that excitement and that emotional state, going to get ready to play the game.
"I think we did a great job. When the ceremony was over, we were able to focus on our gameplan and ourselves. We were able to get the win."
The Bucks raced to a 37-25 first-quarter lead and led by as much as 23 points as they were never headed by a Nets side missing Kyrie Irving due to his absence related to not being vaccinated against coronavirus.
Milwaukee had issues of their own, with Donte DiVincenzo and Bobby Portis unavailable, while Jrue Holiday only played 18 minutes after succumbing to a right heel contusion.
Antetokounmpo had good support from Khris Middleton who finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and three assists, as well as Pat Connaughton (20 points)
Young small forward Jordan Nwora also contributed 15 points and six rebounds from 26 minutes off the bench.
"We've got a deep team," added Antetokounmpo, who had averaged at least 25.0 points and 10.0 rebounds over the past four seasons heading into the opener – the first player to accomplish the feat since Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal (1993-94 to 2002-03).
"Everybody is ready to step up, everybody is ready to play. We play hard and we play together. We try to play good basketball which is what we did tonight."
The 26-year-old Greek power forward also said it was a "compliment" to be named pre-game in the top-75 greatest players in NBA history to mark the competition's 75th anniversary.
Forever enshrined. pic.twitter.com/tsDl7iWEUv— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) October 19, 2021