Giannis Antetokounmpo killed the New York Knicks on Wednesday night. (PHOTO: Milwaukee Bucks Twitter)

During the week he was profiled in a cover story in Sports Illustrated, Giannis Antetokounmpo marched into basketball’s hallowed Madison Square Garden – not far from the magazine’s New York City office – and made one of the biggest shots of his rapidly rising young career on one of sports’ biggest stages.
With the final seconds ticking down Wednesday night and the Bucks trailing the Knicks, 104-103, Antetokounmpo got the ball off the inbounds pass, backed down defender Lance Thomas, pounding the ball into the famous hardwood floor, took one of his giant steps backward to gain some separation and launched a feathery fadeaway jump shot that swished through the net as time expired and the buzzer sounded.

Game over, Milwaukee wins, 105-104, teammates mob the Greek Freak and he presents the arena, and the league, an expression that is simultaneously defiant mean-mug pride and unabashed grinning joy.

Playing in front of the Bucks’ New York-based owners, Wes Edens and Marc Lasry, Antetokounmpo finished the game with 27 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal in 39 minutes. Seconds before the last play, he’d given the Bucks their offensive opportunity on the final possession by tipping the ball off New York’s Derrick Rose at the defensive end. Wednesday’s game was Antetokounmpo’s 13th straight with at least 20 points, and it was the Bucks’ third consecutive victory.

This wasn’t the first time Antetokounmpo made an impression on the Knicks’ home court; three years earlier, as a wide-eyed rookie, he’d refused to back down from a challenge against trash-talking superstar Carmelo Anthony, which you can read about here. Immediately after the shot Wednesday night, Anthony was left looking stunned and incredulous.

Afterward, Antetokounmpo was asked by FOX Sports Wisconsin reporter Telly Hughes if there’s any better place to make a game-winning shot than at Madison Square Garden, and Giannis responded in the best, awesomest, most Giannis-y way ever.

“I want to hit a game-winner in Milwaukee, back home,” he said with a smile.

The Bucks host the Knicks in the second game of a home-and-home series in Milwaukee on Friday.