Giannis Antetokounmpo the heir apparent to LeBron James’ throne
LeBron James has ruled the NBA for quite some time now. In his career, he collected various awards highlighted by four MVPs, NBA Championships, and Finals MVPs. Because of this, he certainly makes a strong case to be part of the GOAT conversation. Giannis Antetokounmpo, fresh of a title, is currently on the upswing, but not yet at LBJ’s level of all-time greatness.
But just like other basketball greats, everyone has a declining stage. And despite LBJ showcasing to us the longest prime, it’s sad to say that Father Time has arrived. For the first time in his career, LBJ suffered a first round exit with the Lakers. And to make matters worse, we all witnessed how LBJ has encountered major injuries as of late that included a groin injury and a high ankle sprain.
With LBJ’s time as the face of the league nearing its end, there’s no doubt that there are superstars that are worthy to inherit his throne. One of the players that is qualified to do so is newly crowned champion and Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. For this piece, let’s take a look at the five achievements by the Greek Freak that make him the next in line for LBJ’s throne.
Dominating the Paint
We all know how LBJ could get baskets in the paint, whether it’s by slashing, scoring in the post, or running in transition. In fact, this was arguably the most dangerous aspect of LeBron’s game. And for sure, the Greek Freak is starting to do the same.
During the regular season, Giannis came in second when it comes to league leaders in Points in the Paint with 16.7 a game. His production only tails behind Pelicans big man Zion Williamson with 20.3. And in this year’s postseason, Giannis led the field in this category with 20.8 points per game in the shaded area.
It is worth noting that during most of LBJ’s Finals runs with the Cavs and the Heat, he remains a consistent figure in the top five scorers in the paint as well, similar to what the Greek Freak did.
Like LeBron, Giannis also gets criticized for their suspect jumpers and free throw shooting. However, if you’re Giannis who stands at 6’11, weighing 242 lbs, he’s physique makes it ideal for him to bully his way into the paint. Furthermore despite his unorthodox free throw shooting motion, Giannis has proved that he can make the foul shots count especially after making 17 of his 19 attempts in the historic title clinching game for the Bucks.
Mark on Defense
Although a great offensive player, people often overlook LBJ’s impact on defense. As we all know, LBJ has made the All-Defensive Team six times in his career. Furthermore, we all know LBJ was also responsible for one of the greatest defensive stops in Finals history where he chased down Andre Iguodala’s shot in the closing moments of the 2016 Finals to win the championship.
And similar to LBJ, Giannis is just as dangerous on defense. He already has four All-Defensive Team selections. And to highlight his defensive intensity, Giannis was also declared the Defensive Player of the Year in 2020, which is an award that LBJ doesn’t have in his trophy collection. In addition to this, Giannis also put up one of the greatest defensive stops in a NBA Finals game that could rival Lebron’s defensive play in 2016.
He's a FREAK!! pic.twitter.com/psoObkEdef
With Giannis Antetokounmpo dominating on both ends of the floor, he certainly makes a case to become the inheritor of LBJ’s throne.
Stacked List of Accolades
Despite being just 26 years old, Giannis Antetokounmpo is already racking up his achievements in the NBA. As of now, he has majority of the NBA awards which are highlighted by his back-to-back MVPs and NBA championship.
26 years old
Defensive Player of the Year
Most Improved Player of the Year
Giannis Antetokounmpo is already an all-time great. pic.twitter.com/qQw0Yd4nTY
— Sky Sports NBA (@SkySportsNBA) July 21, 2021
It is worth noting that Giannis wasn’t a lottery pick after being drafted with the 15th pick in 2013. Furthermore, he also had a subpar rookie season that saw him average under double figures. But despite these setbacks, Giannis has climbed his way into elite levels. In fact, Giannis is just one of three players to win MVP, Finals MVP, and the Defensive Player of the Year Trophy. Furthermore, he is also just one of five international players to be declared as the Finals MVP alongside Hakeem Olajuwon, Tony Parker, Dirk Nowitzki, and Tim Duncan.
Giannis Antetokounmpo joins Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players NBA history to win a regular season MVP Award, a Finals MVP Award and a Defensive Player of the Year Award. pic.twitter.com/Ks1Uhf9EA8
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) July 21, 2021
Coming out of Athens raw, Giannis Antetokounmpo has come a long way to dominate the league. And to accomplish all these milestones at such a young age, it should at least merit him a place in the All-Time Greats conversation.
Eliminating Superstars in the Postseason
Giannis’ first few postseason trips have been uneventful, especially after his first three trips ended up in first round exits. Because of this, critics have surrounded Giannis for his postseason woes being an obstacle to his greatness. However after taking a look at his postseason history, Giannis has eliminated a total of 17 All-Stars in his postseason career.
In 2019, Giannis and the Bucks dispatched the Pistons who were spearheaded by All-Star big men Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. And in the succeeding round, they got past the Celtics who had Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and Al Horford. Although the 2020 postseason was a disappointment, Giannis and crew still managed to eliminate the Magic who were led by two time All-Star Nikola Vucevic.
But in this year’s postseason, Giannis increased his list of casualties. In his championship run, they eliminated the defending Eastern Conference Champs that had Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic, and Andre Iguodala. After that series, the Bucks pulled off the impossible by winning the series in seven games over a stacked Brooklyn Nets that had Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Blake Griffin. With great momentum after dispatching the favorites, the Trae Young-led Hawks would be the next victim of Giannis’ postseason run. And as we all know, the Phoenix Suns team that was led by Chris Paul and Devin Booker would also concede to them in the NBA Finals.
With that amount of All-Stars eliminated, Giannis has achieved a difficult feat. If anything, it only shows that he is postseason ready and geared to chart his career towards greatness.
Delivering a Championship to His Original Team
Although it is much easier to win a championship by joining a super team, especially in an era of super teams, Giannis Antetokounmpo chose to stay in Milwaukee after signing an extension. Bucks fans would know that a younger Giannis promised on twitter that he would help turn the Bucks into a championship team. And as we all know, he recently fulfilled that promise, seven years later.
Promise fulfilled. pic.twitter.com/GQwTWBa4lY
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 21, 2021
Winning a championship with his original team was a much more difficult path. However, the victory is much more glorious in the end. After repeated failures, it took a lot of patience, hardwork, and loyalty for Giannis to succeed in Milwaukee.
Furthermore, fulfilling a promise to win a championship for your original franchise can be a herculean task. The last player to fulfill a promise for his original team was LBJ himself. As we all know, The King had to mount the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history to give the Cavs its first NBA title.
And for Giannis, he had to play the best basketball of his entire life. Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game in the series. In his Finals debut, Giannis also made history by becoming the second player to register back-to-back 40 point and 10 rebound performances.
Giannis joins Shaq. #ThatsGame
— NBA (@NBA) July 12, 2021
Furthermore, Giannis Antetokounmpo also tallied 50 points and 14 rebounds in the title clinching game to give Milwaukee its first championship in 50 years. This is the highest scoring output by any player in a potential title clinching game.
Most points in a potential title-clinching game:
1. Bob Pettit, 50 (1958)
t2. Michael Jordan, 45 (1998)
t2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, 45 (2021)
— Basketball Reference (@bball_ref) July 21, 2021