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Top 50 NBA players from last 50 years: Antetokounmpo ranks No. 14

Editor’s Note: As a part of a brand new sequence for his podcast, “What’s Wright with Nick Wright,” FOX Sports commentator Nick Wright is rating the 50 best NBA players of the last 50 years. The countdown continues as we speak with participant No. 14 Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s profession highlights:

  • 2021 Finals MVP
  • Two-time league MVP
  • Six-time All-Star
  • Four-time first-team All-NBA, two-time second crew
  • 2020 Defensive Player of the Year
  • Four-time All-Defensive first crew, one-time second crew
  • 2017 Most Improved Player
  • 2014 All-Rookie crew

Debate rages endlessly generally over who’s the very best participant in basketball. This isn’t a type of occasions.

Milwaukee Bucks celebrity (*14*) is the clear alternative for the legendary crown, and he most likely has been for the higher a part of 4 years now. His reign won’t finish anytime quickly, both. 

The “Greek Freak” is simply 27 years previous, so the larger query surrounding him is how excessive he climbs the all-time ladder. 

“[He] is a man who has a professional probability of ending his profession within the prime 5, if we had been to do that record in 10 years,” Wright mentioned. “If Khris Middleton doesn’t get harm and so they win the title this 12 months, perhaps he’s already [in] the highest 10.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo is No. 14 on Nick Wright’s Top 50 NBA Players of the Last 50 Years

Widely considered the very best participant on the planet proper now, the “Greek Freak” is in contrast to every other participant the league has ever seen. The Bucks’ celebrity makes use of each his size and power to dominate within the low put up and get excessive proportion photographs at will. The solely factor left on Antetokounmpo’s record is to develop an outdoor shot.

Such hypotheticals are merited once you’ve collected as a lot {hardware} as anybody by your mid-20s. Antetokounmpo is one in all three players in historical past (and the youngest) to garner MVP, Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors, together with Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon. Antetokounmpo already has 4 first-team All-NBA picks (matching Dirk Nowitzki) and 4 All-Defensive ones (matching Dwight Howard). 

Just a dozen players from the previous 50 years have 4 of every. 

Antetokounmpo has averaged at the very least 26 factors and 10 rebounds in 5 consecutive seasons. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and Karl Malone pulled that off over the previous half-century. Olajuwon had 4 such campaigns. Tim Duncan didn’t have any. 

Where Antetokounmpo additional distinguishes himself is along with his playmaking. The 6-foot-11 unicorn has been recording practically six assists per recreation the previous six years, making his positionless act the most important benefit within the recreation and traditionally unprecedented. 

“He is a selfless teammate, an absolute ironman, the very best defender in basketball, essentially the most dominant scorer in basketball, the very best participant in basketball,” Wright mentioned. “I believe he ought to have greater than two regular-season MVPs.” 

At this level, Antetokounmpo’s legacy might be outlined by how a lot he wins. He has already bucked the chances by turning Milwaukee right into a contender from scratch. Antetokounmpo entered the league straight from Greece as a uncooked 19-year-old, becoming a member of a franchise that hadn’t produced an All-Star in a decade. It would take six seasons earlier than the undermanned Bucks would get out of the primary spherical, regardless of their younger star’s routinely eclipsing his regular-season averages within the postseason. 

“Giannis’ regular-season résumé is unbelievable,” Wright mentioned. “Somehow, his postseason résumé could be higher.”

The Bucks appeared poised to make the Finals in 2019 amid a torrid run from Antetokounmpo, solely to see a fair hotter Kawhi Leonard rally the Raptors from a 2-0 deficit within the convention finals. In 2020, Antetokounmpo repeated as MVP (and broke Wilt Chamberlain’s single-season participant effectivity document within the course of) whereas Milwaukee once more earned the East’s prime seed. After averaging 31-16-6 within the opening spherical of the NBA Bubble, Antetokounmpo suffered an ankle damage halfway by a second-round loss to the Heat

The playoff disappointment had begun to stack up however would quickly be forgiven and forgotten. The No. 3 seed Bucks had been a little bit of an afterthought heading into the 2021 postseason, given the firepower Brooklyn boasted with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. The two groups would sq. off within the convention semifinals, with Giannis and KD buying and selling haymakers in a sequence for the ages. This time, it was Antetokounmpo main an epic comeback. With Milwaukee trailing 2-0, he averaged 34 and 14 over the ultimate 5 video games. His 40 factors and 13 rebounds — and KD’s dimension 18 sneakers — had been simply sufficient for the Bucks to outlast the Nets in extra time of Game 7.

Giannis was cruising by the convention finals when he hyperextended his knee, which initially appeared to finish his season. He’d return per week later, nonetheless, and drop 20 and 17 in his Finals debut. It was by far his worst efficiency of the sequence. He’d put up consecutive 40-point double-doubles, deftly defend each elements of an alley-oop with Game 4 within the steadiness, seal Game 5 with an alley-oop of his personal, and explode for 50 factors, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks in a slim Game 6 win to complete off the Suns

“If you need to say it’s the best Finals recreation ever performed, it’s definitely on the very quick record,” Wright mentioned. 

The similar could possibly be mentioned about Giannis’ whole playoff run, in addition to his efficiency within the Finals. He averaged 35-13-5 with three blocks whereas taking pictures 62% versus Phoenix, all whereas main the Bucks again from a 2-0 deficit. His stat line for the 2021 postseason: 30-13-5.

“Quite merely one of many best playoff runs any participant has ever had in any sport ever,” Wright mentioned. “I don’t suppose it’s the best Finals ever. But should you say it, I don’t suppose you’re loopy.”

Antetokounmpo adopted that with one other MVP-caliber marketing campaign and extra iconic playoff performances, however the Bucks’ repeat bid was derailed by a Middleton knee damage. Without his lone All-Star sidekick, Antetokounmpo averaged 34-15-7 over a seven-game sequence loss to the Celtics within the convention semis. 

For his postseason profession, he has been good for 27-12-5 per recreation. No different participant has averaged 12 rebounds and 5 assists, a lot much less mixed it with one of many highest scoring averages of all time.

Those charges are non permanent, in fact. Antetokounmpo is barely getting higher. 

“I don’t suppose he wants a 3-point shot. I believe if he can simply get a little bit of a midrange shot and a little bit of a child hook, he turns into completely unguardable. As is, he’s fairly rattling unguardable,” Wright mentioned. “I believe he’s going to get within the [G.O.A.T.] dialog.”

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