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Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP honors, cries as he thanks family

'The Greek Freak'

The Milwaukee Bucks fell two games short of the NBA Finals but they won big at the NBA Awards. A tearful Giannis Antetokounmpo earned Most Valuable Player honors, Mike Budenholzer won Coach of the Year, and Jon Horst took Executive of the Year on Monday night in Santa Monica. 

Antetokounmpo, a 24-year-old forward from Greece, beat out Paul George of Oklahoma City and James Harden of Houston, who won last year. Antetokounmpo was a resounding winner. He received 941 points and 78 first-place votes in the balloting — 165 points more than Harden. Harden finished second with 776 points and 23 first-place votes.

2019 NBA Awards Presented By Kia On TNT - Inside
Giannis Antetokounmpo accepts the Kia NBA Most Valuable Player award onstage on June 24, 2019 in Santa Monica. Kevin Winter/Getty

"MVP is not about stats and numbers, and obviously James Harden had unbelievable numbers and Paul George also, but obviously it's about winning," Antetokounmpo said backstage. "We created great habits throughout the season and were able to stick by them, and that's why we were able to have a chance in every single game we played and were able to win 60 games."

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds while earning All-NBA first-team honors this season, his sixth with the Bucks. He led the franchise to the best record in the regular season and the Bucks reached the Eastern Conference finals.

Tears rolled down his cheeks as Antetokounmpo thanked his mother Veronica and brothers in the audience at Barker Hanger. He credited his late father for pushing him toward his goals and his teammates and coaching staff for their help.

"We started from nothing as a family," he said, "and we are going to be in every stage that we can be as a family."

Antetokounmpo said backstage that he had vowed to his family he wasn't going to cry. "When you hear your name up there on the stage and then you realize these years of hard work, what you did in the past, then you start getting emotional," he said.

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As "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft reported last year, Antetokounmpo was born in Athens in 1994 into poverty on the lowest rung of Greek society. His parents had come from Nigeria and raised their family. They had no papers, lived in tiny two-room apartments, sleeping three or four to a bed. There was rarely enough food.

"You know, it was tough," Antetokounmpo told Kroft. "We didn't have a lot of money. But we had a lot of happiness. So we wasn't broke happiness wise. When we were struggling back in the day, we were all together in one room, same room. We were having fun. We were smiling. There was some tough times."