The 2021 NBA season came to an end on Tuesday night, as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns to win their second championship in franchise history and first title since 1971.
As the clock winded down to double-zeros, former Longhorn PJ Tucker did something that many players can only dream of. He got the privilege of dribbling out the final seconds of a championship-clinching game, as the Bucks convincing Game 6 performance left zero doubt at the end about who the Larry O'Brien trophy belonged to.
Despite falling down 0-2 in the series, the Bucks won Game 6 by a score of 105-98 in front of their home crowd to earn the crown. Tucker was a part of the celebration, as the grizzled veteran capped off his 15th year in professional hoops with a championship.
During the postseason run, he averaged 4.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and one steal per game, all while usually being tasked with guarding the opposing teams’ best offensive player. This role was vital down the stretch for Milwaukee, as Tucker’s knack on defense eased the burden for some of his teammates that were carrying the load on the offensive end.
Tucker’s journey through professional basketball has taken him to multiple stops, including a handful of stints at the beginning of his career with teams overseas. He was drafted 35th overall out of Texas by the Toronto Raptors in 2006 before hopping from Israel, Ukraine, Greece, and Germany during his five years internationally.
His official post-game media availability after the Bucks championship celebrations brought back some of these memories for Tucker, as this journey is something he could have only dreamed of.
"Somebody asked me the other day, I think it was for 2010 or 2011 when I was Germany, like 'what would I tell myself now?' And I was like 'you definitely ain't going to believe this s***.' It really happened after 15 years.
After playing the past four seasons with the Houston Rockets, Tucker found fantastic fortune when he was traded to Milwaukee midway through this season. The former Longhorn immediately made his impact as a defensive stopper felt, something Tucker has embraced as his role during his lengthy career.
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In 20 regular-season games with the Bucks, the 36-year-old didn’t produce eye-popping numbers, but he still logged heavy minutes as a consistent starter during the 2021 playoffs. Tucker started 19 of 23 games in this postseason, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (29.6) only behind the Bucks big-three of Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Tucker only scored in double-digits twice during the playoffs, with both performances coming against the Brooklyn Nets. He found his hands full guarding another former Longhorn in Kevin Durant, as the two of them consistently went at it during the teams’ second-round series.
In the Finals against Phoenix, Tucker found himself up against one of his former teams. He played as a Sun for four years from 2012 to 2016, using his tenure with the team to produce career-high averages for points (9.4) in 2014, field-goal percentage (.473) in 2013, and assists (2.2) in 2016.
The Suns managed to produce only one winning season in Tucker’s time with the team, but it seems like everything has finally come full circle for the former Texas stud.
Now, he’s an NBA Champion for the first time in his career and will look to defend the title with Milwaukee during the start of next season this fall.
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