It’s been a long year for Jrue Holiday. He was traded just before the start of the season, moved his family and their newborn baby during a pandemic, then contracted COVID-19 and ultimately recovered from it.
That was all on top of the basketball side of things, too — getting acquainted to a new team, training in a bubble due to the pandemic, and dealing with high expectations after being a big offseason addition.
On Tuesday night, Holiday and his teammates were hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy, as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns, 105-96, to win Game 6 and clinch the NBA Finals.
“It was worth it. All of it,” Holiday told the media following the game.
Moments before, on the court during the trophy presentation, Holiday gave glory to God. He has long been open about his faith and how it’s carried him through these different seasons he’s endured both on and off the court.
“This is such a blessing, man. This is only God,” he said. “Like I said before, as a kid, you only dream of this moment, so to be able to actually do it, to see the confetti, to do it with my brothers, there’s nothing like it.”
"Coming here was obviously the greatest thing in my career." pic.twitter.com/QRxqKNafbp
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 21, 2021
The Bucks won behind a stellar performance from star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored 50 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked five shots. He became one of just two players to score 50 points in a series-winning game in NBA Finals history.
Holiday added 12 points and dished out a team-high 11 assists in the series finale. He also had four steals. For the series, he averaged 16.6 points, with a series-best 27 in Game 5. He added 13 assists and three steals that night, including a huge last-minute steal that seized the series lead.
Holiday, who spent the majority of his career with the New Orleans Pelicans before being traded to Milwaukee, said he was content with just being himself in the role he was needed for to help this team win. Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton have both been with the Bucks since 2013, and have been the core of the franchise for the better part of a decade. Holiday said this was their team, and he just wanted to do his part.
“Star in your role,” he said several times following the win.
“I’m good with assisting. I’m good with supporting. I’m good with being good in my role,” he told the media. “Those guys have been here the longest, and everything they’ve been through — especially the last couple of years — I really just feel like it’s a team effort and we just kind of put that puzzle piece together and we finally got a win. I won my last game of the season. It’s the first time ever [in the NBA].”
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 21, 2021
Holiday said he immediately felt welcomed by his new teammates, which was even more important given how the past year, and even the past several years, has been for him. His wife, Lauren, in 2016 discovered a tumor in her brain while she was pregnant with their first child. She ultimately had a successful surgery a month after giving birth.
Holiday said he felt like he was wanted in Milwaukee and quickly felt like part of the core, even though he was new.
“They embraced me,” he said during the on-court celebration. “They told me what the deal was from the beginning. I’ve seen all the work that they put in and how close they’ve gotten. They believed in me, honestly, and coming here was obviously the greatest thing in my career.”
The reason the Bucks won, Holiday believes, is because everyone on the team supported each other.
“Everybody on my team is humble. Everybody on my team puts their head down and they work. Everybody on my team supports each other. There’s no envy or jealousy. Everybody loves to see everybody else succeed. I feel like that’s the biggest reason why we’re here,” he told the media.
After starring at UCLA, being a first-round draft pick, making an All-Star Game, and even now as an NBA champion, Holiday has always put God first.
“Making Christ a priority is huge, because without Him, I wouldn’t be here. None of us would,” he said last year in an interview with Rusty George, the lead pastor of Real Life Church in California.
Holiday was clearly exhausted Tuesday night, but won’t have much time off. Later this week, he’ll head to Tokyo to suit up for Team USA in the Olympics and attempt to join his wife, a World Cup champion and two-time Olympic soccer gold medalist, as a fellow gold-medal winner.
But for as long as he can, he’s going to enjoy this championship and the hard work he put in this past year to get there.
“So much stuff has tried to stop us, but we’re on top, so it was all worth it,” he said.
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