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Sports Illustrated votes Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James the best players in the world

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James

Sports Illustrated has released its annual Top 100 list of NBA players ahead of the 2019-20 season, picking Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo as the top player in the world, followed by Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and perennial presence LeBron James.

Antetokounmpo, the reigning Most Valuable Player, was a no-brainer for this ranking, given his sheer impact on the court and a steady train of improvement year after year. The magazine explained it as such:

“No star player invests more into every possession than Giannis Antetokounmpo, which goes a long way for an unreasonably athletic 7-footer with real ingenuity. His give-a-s**t quotient is just off the charts. It’s what makes him the game’s most dangerous transition threat and, by extension, one of its most powerful defensive rebounders; there’s just no consistent answer for a player who can pull down a board over an opposing center, outrace most of the opposing team down the floor, and dunk off a stride from just inside the three-point line.”

Leonard, who made his case to be the best player in the world after a heroic playoff race, finished right after Antetokounmpo in the ranking at No. 2 due to a major question: Is he still this good without his best friend load management?

“Even after an all-time playoff run, a championship win over the Warriors, and a Finals MVP, the conversation around Kawhi Leonard still comes back to load management. The fundamental question is this: Can a player really be the best in the league if he elects to miss a quarter of his team’s regular-season games?”

James, who has been a staple as the best player in the league, and one to perennially top the charts for SI, finished third, considering his recent stint with the Los Angeles Lakers and an aging body that could ultimately get the worst of him moving forward, even with the technologically-advanced treatment he often seeks. James had occupied the top spot for six straight years and knocking him off that pedestal was tough:

“Budging LeBron James from the top of this ranking—a spot he has occupied since the inception of SI’s Top 100 in 2013—required a confluence of factors. One of them is the unprecedented sum of minutes James has accrued in regular season, playoff, and international basketball, and the toll that takes on the 34-year-old’s body.”

It seems the torch has been passed after a long time with The King at the throne, with other stars now emerging as the future of the league.