The Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Brooklyn Nets 120-119 in overtime on Thursday, a game in which Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 44 points and passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the Bucks’ all-time leading scorer. Antetokounmpo hit a step-back 3-pointer to tie the game in regulation, eventually forcing overtime. All season long the MVP discussion has centered around Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, but is Giannis the best player in the game?
Shannon Sharpe thinks so. On Friday’s episode of “Undisputed,” Sharpe went on a rant about the dominance of the defending NBA champion against the league’s best teams, citing his last two games against the Sixers and Brooklyn in which Giannis poured in 84 points, 28 rebounds and 12 assists on 67 percent shooting. Sharpe also mentioned his game-clinching block in a win on Tuesday and his game-tying three and clutch free throws to seal it against KD.
“My biggest takeaway is what I knew to be true at the beginning of the season,” Sharpe said. “Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best player in the NBA, and he did nothing to dispel that.”
In 39 minutes Antetokounmpo went 14-for-21 from the field, including 1-for-4 from 3-point range, and 15-for-19 from the free throw line. He also grabbed 14 rebounds and dished out six assists. He was a game-high +12.
As Antetokounmpo has ascended to the top of the game, the critique has always been his lack of skills and only relying on brute force and strength to dominate opponents.
James Harden, then a member of the Houston Rockets once famously said he wished he was 7 feet and could just run and dunk. Implying that Giannis lacked skill.
It’s impossible to watch Antetokounmpo’s evolution over the past three years and not see a supremely skilled basketball player.
“It’s good, because I’m changing the narrative,” Antetokounmpo said with a wink while discussing the record. “I don’t want to be the guy only that dunks and runs. I can make a 3.”
We all witnessed his dominance in the postseason last year, particularly in the Finals en route to his first title and Finals MVP.
He has been excellent this year and is deservedly in the MVP conversation. In fact you can make a case that he should win it. He is second in the league, behind Jokic, in EPM at +7.6. He is also second in WS/48, behind Jokic again, at .291. He also leads the league in scoring at 30.1 points per game.
The man is a monster offensively and a Defensive Player of the Year candidate as well.
Passing an icon, legend of the game, and one of the few men who can lay claim to GOAT status is a tremendous accomplishment.
“Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is just one of the iconic players in our league,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “And what he was able to accomplish in Milwaukee and then of course going forward, he’s one of the all-time greats. So for Giannis to pass him, organizationally, as our all-time career leading scorer, to have a front-row seat for the last three and three-quarters, almost four years, I just feel incredibly fortunate. His teammates are beyond happy for him. … It’s beyond impressive what he’s done, and he’s got a lot more left ahead of him.”
Of course Antetokounmpo is a two-time MVP and defensive player of the winner and he’s better today than he was when he won those awards. So if you call him the best player in the world and MVP it would be hard to argue.
“That’s definitely the MVP,” Bucks guard Jrue Holiday said. “That’s definitely Most Improved Player, which I’m not even sure he can get that at this point. He’s improved his game a lot, and it’s shown — from the free throw line, to his fadeaway, to his 3-point shot. From last year to this year, it’s so much better.”