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World champions to Olympic glory: We chat with Bucks' Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday about an incredible year

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Posted at 5:30 AM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-11 09:52:28-05

MILWAUKEE — Can you name two professional athletes who had a better year than Bucks players Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday?

From world champions to Olympic glory -- Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday reached the pinnacle of their profession in whirlwind style.

"It was one of the best experiences of my life as far as my career goes," says Middleton.

On July 20 they helped the Milwaukee Bucks bring home an NBA title for the first time in 50 years.

Two days later, a city parade for the World Champions.

Hours later - Holiday and Middleton are on a 15-hour plane ride to Tokyo, Japan.

Five days after winning a ring, both are playing in a different country, different time zone and different uniform - for Team USA at the Olympics!

"It was also weird because me and Kris and Devin Booker, we're literally thrown into the fire," said Holiday. "Our first game playing together was the first game of the Olympic tournament."

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Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton (22) gets past Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) for a shot during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/John McCoy)

Even more weird, because the Bucks had just beaten Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns in game six to win it all.

Holiday credits his wife Lauren - a two time Olympic soccer gold medal winner in 2008 and 2012 - for encouraging him to participate in the summer games.

"She's one of the reasons why I went to the Olympics," said Holiday. "For one, I went to the 2012 Olympics where they won and just saw the environment and how it is. It helped for me make the decision to go."

Holiday says he was a bit conflicted. His childhood dream was to win an NBA title. So when the pandemic postponed the Summer Olympics by one year and extended the NBA post season deep into July - he had to make a tough decision.

"I was focusing on basketball here in Milwaukee, trying to win a championship, and she's (Lauren) kind of like yes, I want you to win here. But I want you to go to Japan and win as well."

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Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday (21) dribbles the ball around Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield (24) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Milwaukee. The Bucks won 133-127. (AP Photo/Jon Durr)

Another big change at the Olympics - no fans in the stands. Middleton and Holiday had just come off the defining roar of the Deer District and a packed Fiserv Forum.

"It's tough. I mean, the fans are part of the environment that you love," said Middleton. "That's what fuels you, that's what keeps you going, that gives you that adrenaline."

The Bucks played without fans during the end of the 2020 season in the bubble. Middleton believes Team USA athletes in Beijing will find a way to forge ahead after years of practicing and training on their own or without crowds.

"It's something that they do I'm sure a million times to that point, so at best they just gotta try to focus on their craft and performing the best that they can," said Middleton.

Holiday says when you don't have fans to lean on - lean in on your teammates.

"Your teammates are the ones who push you and bring the energy," said the NBA All-Star. "They cheer for you like crazy. We're cheering for each other like it was us against the world. So you make your way."

Middleton and Holiday made it and they would do it again if given the chance.

"In a heartbeat," said Middleton. "I would definitely do it again without a second thought."

"For sure, I get to represent my family and my country," said Holiday. "I get to represent everything that I believe in."

Holiday and Middleton are now in an exclusive club. They join only four other NBA players - Kyrie Irving, Lebron James, Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan - to win Olympic Gold and an NBA Championship in the same year.

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