As confetti, cheers and tears rained down on the court, Milwaukee Bucks superstar and NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo sat in stunned silence on the bench. Mouth agape, he simply sat in the moment, taking in the accumulation of all his hard work and sacrifice, delivering his team and city their first NBA Championship since 1971.
In Jacksonville, Joe Schobert sat in the same stunned silence.
“I was like Giannis when he was sitting on the bench crying because he’s worked so hard. It was like I worked so hard just watching these guys,” laughed Schobert on Saturday, two-and-a-half weeks after the NBA Finals concluded. “I was just sitting on the couch, I don’t think I said a word for about half an hour.”
The Jaguars middle linebacker is a native of Waukesha, Wisconsin, a bedroom suburb of Milwaukee. In Schobert’s lifetime, before Antetokounmpo’s arrival, the Bucks had won only one division title. Of course all Schobert can recall about the time is the pain that followed.
“The only thing I remember from back then is Ray Allen getting traded, I don’t remember them playing, I don’t remember anything else. It has been 20-something years of just—we made the playoffs a couple times.”
It’s a feeling known to many when it comes to a downtrodden franchise; abject disappointment. Always hoping for something—or someone—to come and save the day, to turn things around. Years of mediocrity with sparsely placed moments of pride and hope. It’s how Schobert felt for most of his life as a Bucks fan. And it’s why he can sympathize with Jaguars fans.
“That’s exactly how I’ve been,” agreed Schobert.
The Bucks championship came at the hands of an entire team; but there’s no questioning the turnaround started because of Giannis. The two-time MVP was the spark that lit a fire under the organization and the ray of hope that the city needed. Schobert saw it first hand.
“There’s been a lot of iterations of the Bucks, a lot of rebranding to try to make us better and finally once Giannis got here and started putting the work in and bringing Khris Middleton along and those guys, it has taken off and it’s been great for the city.”
And if the long-suffering Jaguars franchise can see itself mirrored in the previously long-suffering Bucks organization, then fans can’t help but pray Trevor Lawrence will be their own Antetokounmpo. Lawrence was the No. 1 overall pick and has been tabbed a potential franchise-changing quarterback.
His mechanics are what stand out at first, his touch on the ball making it appear he’s playing a different game than every other passer on the field. The defense hasn’t been able to play too physical in the first four training camp practices this past week, so offensive strides must be taken with a grain of salt. But so many aspects of Lawrence’s game have still stood out for Schobert.
“My biggest impression is when he throws the ball, the ball gets to where it’s supposed to go, quick, and when he needs to have a touchdown with a pass, he has a lot of accuracy. You guys have seen it out there, he’s made a lot of good throws this week. Now, the defense hasn’t been allowed to touch the ball, but we will break up some of those.”
But Lawrence’s biggest impact—at least thus far—hasn’t come on the field. For that matter, by the time all is said and done, if he lives up to they hype surrounding his name, his biggest impact will be in the community around him.
It’s the kind of impact Antetokounmpo has had in Milwaukee.
"You can tell that [the Antetokounmpo are] engrained in the city of Milwaukee and it means a lot to them to be able to bring a championship there,” noted Schobert. “I can understand the ease of trying to be like Kevin Durant going to Golden State, creating a super team, like Lebron [James] and the [Miami] Heat and all those things. But he did it the hard way, he did it the best way and he’s going to be a legend in Milwaukee because of it.”
Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Antetokounmpo willingly carried the weight and delivered a championship. It requires a presence and confidence few possess and even fewer know how to handle. But Schobert sees it in Trevor Lawrence.
“He is going to make some rookie mistakes, but I have been most impressed with his poise and his command in the huddle and meetings. Just the way he carries himself, because coming in as a rookie in the NFL is not easy in general, coming in as a rookie quarterback where 75 percent of the people in these stands are probably here to see Trevor Lawrence or get an autographed football from him after practice. He is taking it all very well and he has been very impressive in that aspect.”
The marriage of Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars has caused rumblings across the NFL community. The franchise is moving and shaking as they start a new era, hoping it leads to their very own moment of stunned silence as the confetti falls.