MILWAUKEE -- As the Milwaukee Bucks gathered at the free throw line, their championship rings in hand, watching as the banner for the franchise's first championship in 50 years was unveiled in the rafters of Fiserv Forum, Giannis Antetokounmpo said he started to get emotional.
"That's going to be forever," Antetokounmpo said following Tuesday night's season-opening 127-104 win over the Brooklyn Nets. "You can walk away from the game today and that banner is always going to be there. You can always come back and watch a game in 2055 -- hopefully we are alive -- and the banner is going to be there."
The NBA had not started a season with a banner-raising ceremony on opening night in two years. With fans still not allowed at the Staples Center at the start of last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Los Angeles Lakers waited until May to unveil their banner.
However, fans in Milwaukee have waited since 1971 for another NBA championship. A sold-out crowd packed inside the arena, and a stage was set up outside in the Deer District for another chance to commemorate the Bucks before a new season began.
"Milwaukee, we did it," Bucks forward Khris Middleton said to the crowd during the pre-game ceremony. "We finally did it."
Antetokounmpo and Middleton had some input on the design for the championship ring ahead of Tuesday night, but players had not seen the rings before the ceremony began. Antetokounmpo joked earlier in the week that his biggest input was that he wanted a ring bigger than the one his brother Kostas won with the Lakers last season, which he compared to an AirPods case.
Antetokounmpo wasn't sure if the Bucks' rings actually accomplished that goal, but that was far from his mind when he got a chance to share in the joy his brother Thanasis, who was in the NBA's health and safety protocol during the Bucks' celebration after Game 6 of the Finals, got from receiving his ring.
"He hasn't taken his ring off," Giannis said with a laugh. "He went to the cold tub with his ring. He got treatment with his ring. He put it on his pinkie, then he switched and put it on his thumb. He kept opening it and closing it and taking pictures. That's the awesome part of this."
To be clear, the Bucks' championship ring is big.
"I knew it was going to be big," Bucks guard Pat Connaughton said. "When I saw it, it was bigger than I thought it was going to be. ... And then I was concerned about my ability to hold my hand up with the ring."
The top of the ring has 360 diamonds, the left side has 16 emerald-shaped diamonds and th right side has 16 emerald-shaped diamonds. The ring features the phrase "Fear the Deer" on one side along with the player's name and jersey number. On the other side are the words "Bucks in 6," the rallying cry adopted by fans during the Finals run. There's even a removable top with a QR code underneath that when scanned plays video highlights from the season, a feature Antetokounmpo said he suggested they add to the ring.
"Seeing what we accomplished last year, seeing guys get their rings, being able to share that moment with teammates, with the organization, I think it was just a really unique, awesome experience," Connaughton said. "The ring itself is commemorative of that. It's something that no one can take away from us. No one can take away those experiences that we've had together and the ring symbolizes that."