Giannis Antetokounmpo’s all-time rank on the NBA’s Mount Olympus got fortified with 50 points in the NBA Finals to wrap up the series vs the Suns and win his first NBA Championship.
It’s the first Championships for the Bucks in 50 years and by winning it Giannis filled out his resume at the mere age of 26.
Giannis Antetokoumpo all-time rank
Every time you bring up a player’s name and all-time in the same sentence eyebrows are usually raised. While basketball is a simple game, fans of the game rarely agree on many things.
The most controversial thing most of the time is where does a player rank among his peers. Well, Giannis Antetokoumpo increased his all-time rank dramatically after these playoffs and especially this Finals. The Greek player averaged 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals per game in the Finals vs the Suns.
As absurd as those numbers might seems they are legitimate.
The Suns, albeit discredited widely among the league, were not in the Finals by mistake.
17-19 from the line
Clinches Bucks' first title in 50 years
— Franchise Sports 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@FranchiseSprts) July 21, 2021
They were a really good team that simply hit a wall in the Finals. Giannis, with all his flaws, became an unsolvable riddle which is what all-time greats do.
His stellar series culminated in Game 6 with a performance for the ages as he scored 50 of his team’s 105 points literally putting them on his back. He willed his team to victory which is a term usually reserved for the likes of LeBron James or Kobe Bryant.
It was one of the best NBA Finals performances of all time and done so by a player whose career has been plagued with utterly false narratives. He proved himself as everything he was made out impossible to be, Giannis catapulted himself into the All-time great conversation and deservedly so.
Not a top player
For a very long time, Giannis Antetokounmpo was followed by a very distinct narrative. He is not a top player. Not a complete player. You can’t win with him. He’s not clutch.
Giannis looked up to KD as a kid, and now joins him as an NBA Champion 🤝 🏆
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) July 22, 2021
Those are just some of the narratives that were spun around through the media these past four years. They returned every year, each time after the Bucks would crash out of the playoffs. The Bucks were favoured or heavily favoured to win the East for three years and all three years they failed to do so. The Celtics kicked them out in 2018 after a bad game from Giannis in Game 7. He was only 23 years old.
In the very next season, they lost to the future champs, the Raptors, who had Kawhi Leonard at his best. Last year, they were ousted by Miami and the narrative that Giannis can’t win you a ring became the loudest it ever was.
Did Giannis play those series as some of the all-time greats? Did he play like Duncan, Jordan, LeBron, Kawhi, Kobe, Bird, Magic, Kareem? Nope. But he was not the reason his team lost either. Poor adjustments and poor teammate performances were the reasons the Bucks failed.
All of the blame fell solely on Giannis. Why? Because it’s the cheapest, easiest way to create an interesting narrative that will drive sales.
"Kobe Bryant thinks I can do this… I had to do it."
Giannis on Kobe challenging him to win MVP back in 2017, and then to win an NBA Championship in 2019. pic.twitter.com/3OtTaHev3D
— NBA (@NBA) July 22, 2021
The same thing or similar things were said about Magic way back or Duncan and even Jordan. Shaq was criticized for his lack of seriousness while James lacked the clutch gene. Giannis won two MVPs by the time he was 25. Only LeBron and Kareem did that, it bloody means something.
Writings on the wall
So why was Giannis crucified? His resume was as good as that of LeBron or Jordan at age 25? Neither won a ring at 25, Jordan had several early exits while LeBron played two Finals and lost both of them.
At age 26 LeBron was mentally destroyed by the Mavs so much so that he could not post up J.J. Barea. He was criticized because he didn’t fit the perception of a superstar. Not with so many glaring flaws in his game. He is not a complete player. And he is not.
He lacks a shot which hampers the Bucks severely. The lack of being a triple-threat scorer limits the Bucks in ways that allow other teams to game plan around it.
And so, Giannis became overrated. He is everything but overrated.
The perception of talent is a curious thing. Talent is a silky smooth jumper, a great handle and things like that. But talent is also the ability to get around your defender with a first step, talent is driving relentlessly to the paint and scoring emphatically with a dunk.
Great footwork is talent as is a great handle. If we stop highlighting his flaws and concentrate on his strengths we will see a unique player that combines explosiveness, force, quick decision making and great body control in a way never seen before.
Physically, Antetokounmpo All-time Rank is top 10 arguably top 5 ever. It was there three, two years ago, it was always there but it needed to be honed. It finally flashed on the biggest of stages.
Ascension to top
Giannis was unreal in the big final. The level he showed in the series and especially the final game is something only the greatest can do.
This man @Giannis_An34 took slander the whole Playoffs, got better every series, had the best Finals closeout / game 6 ever, brought a championship to his draft city after half a century, then goes to Chick-fil-A with his 🏆 🏆
— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) July 22, 2021
When we factor in the injury he sustained against the Hawks his level seems impossible. It took him only three games to have more 40 point games than Durant, Curry, Kobe, Duncan, Bird, Kareem, Wilt. Different times, different styles but still look at that list, it’s unbelievable. An Antetokoumpo all-time rank among those names is justified.
Why? Because he exorcised one of his biggest demons when it mattered the most.
A 50% career free-throw shooter in the playoffs shot 89% from the line in Game 6. 17-19 from the line is impressive if you’re Steve Nash let alone some who shoots it way worse than that.
The greatest always find a way and Giannis showed he is one of the greatest.
Putting a number on Antetokumpo’s all-time rank is a tricky task as any ranking done is very subjective. His age 26 resume is one of the best ever and it can only become better.
If he keeps up his performances in not unrealistic to expect him to finish top 10 all-time.
An NBA Champion, 1x DPOY, 5x All-Star, 2x MVP’s, 1x FMVP, 3x All-NBA First Team, 2x All-NBA Second Team, 3x All-Defense 1st Team. He turns 27 on December 6th.
Flawed but deadly
Giannis has glaring flaws in his game so how does he dominate so much? How did he destroy the Suns?
JRUE STEAL. GIANNIS DUNK!!! pic.twitter.com/O0KhiXILBV
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 18, 2021
He was used in three different ways. He was a screener for Middleton as the primary ball-handler which is extremely tough to guard. The 2nd way he was used as a passer and initiator of the offence. He dominated in this role as he drew in the defence with his drives allowing plenty of room for kick-outs. A very underrated aspect of his game is his passing which he showcased in the Finals. He regularly found teammates in the corner for easy shots. They won game 5 with this as the Bucks shot 70% from the field in quarters 2 and 3 of Game 5.
The most deadly way he was used as a small-ball 5. He was guarded by Ayton 1 on 1 and he completely dominated that matchup. Ayton actually held Giannis to below 50% shooting when guarded by him but as a small-ball 5, he was able to be close to the basket with great position.
That allowed him to score easily with his physicality and great touch around the basket. Another thing that worked well was his length allowing him to collect numerous offensive rebounds which won game 5. In game 6 he was virtually impossible to stop. You must live with his exceptional field goal percentages as nobody can stop him 1 on 1 but when he hits his free throws at an elite level it’s game over. There is nothing you can do and the Suns tried everything.
So, what is Antetokoumpo’s all-time rank?
As we explained before, it’s hard to tell.
A lot of it is very subjective, but at age 26 he has already a HOF career.
Giannis is 1 of 3. pic.twitter.com/5WNkgEZoeR
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 22, 2021
How far he can go in the next 10 years remains to be seen but he is on a brutal pace. You will find many players that think his all-time rank is top 30. Some would say Antetokoumpo ranks all-time in the top 20.
Does he certainly have the chance to be top 10, top 5, maybe best? Who knows.
One thing is certain. All the talk about the clutch gene, about a limited skill set that can’t win, about lack of talent is done. It was always a false narrative. The truth is that Giannis Anteotkoumpo is not the ideal type of basketball player but he can do things nobody before him could do. It’s time to recognize how great and unique he is. It’s time to declare him an all-time great.