Giannis Antetokounmpo dominated the NBA Finals to lead the Bucks to their first title in 50 years. He also joined an exclusive club with Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon as just one of three players to win MVP, DPOY and Finals MVP in his career. There is a long list of candidates from LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Nikola Jokić, Stephen Curry, etc., but is the Greek Freak the best player on Earth right now? Crossover staff responds.
During and immediately after his second-round fight against the Nets (the best series this postseason had to offer), Giannis Antetokounmpo called Kevin Durant the best player in the world. Anyone who has seen those seven games should agree. Durant did everything, often with a ridiculous degree of difficulty; If their best healthy teammate hadn’t been Blake Griffin, the Bucks would have seen their season end at Barclays Center.
This doesn’t take anything away from Giannis. His case for the throne is easy to argue at this point. But heading into next season, the answer is Durant.
I will be a little contrary here and consider Kevin Durant the best player alive despite Antetokounmpo’s historic run in the Finals.
This is not to denigrate Giannis. His performance against the Suns stands as one of the greatest final efforts of all time, and he is perhaps the most likable superstar of the century. But perhaps the context of the 2021 Finals is obscuring the debate. Phoenix was a disastrous matchup for the Bucks in hindsight. Chris Paul was invaded throughout the series by Jrue Holiday and a long winged collection, and the Suns had no impediment for Antetokounmpo, aside from Deandre Ayton. Are we sure Antetokounmpo would have channeled Prime Shaq against a healthy Lakers or Clippers team?
Demeaning the Bucks’ title in any way is a silly exercise. All titles are obtained without asterisks. Antetokounmpo was brilliant in the Finals and his performance will be remembered for decades to come. But in a vacuum, Durant’s offensive brilliance still gives him the go-ahead for the slightest of margins. Let’s hope to see the two superstars duel once more in the 2022 postseason.
Yes, Giannis is the best player on Earth right now. Don’t make this complicated. He just scored the first 50-point closing final game in half a century and physically overwhelmed an entire roster. Never before have LeBron, Durant, Steph or Kawhi had such a dominant performance in the championship round. (LeBron was close in 2018, except his team lost, and the two-way brilliance wasn’t there.) Giannis’s defense also gives him a legitimate boost in the Best Living Player conversation. How many of the best in the league are putting in a constant 48-minute effort on that end of the floor?
Now, does saying that Giannis is the current best player in the NBA mean he can’t be beat? Of course not. And Durant especially has a compelling case for this title after what he did against Milwaukee in Round 2, although Giannis arguably has a durability advantage over KD if you really want to start getting picky. Ultimately, whoever you have in the conversation for this title, if it’s not Giannis, they’ll be chasing him next season.
No. Giannis certainly raised his status. Now he is one of the best players in the NBA. forever, with a postseason résumé that has begun to equal the scale of the one he has in the regular season. But LeBron is still out there, and if it weren’t for Anthony Davis’ injury, it’s more likely that Giannis would have faced the Lakers in the Finals. And Kevin Durant nearly sent the Bucks home in the second round with a battered roster behind him. I think Giannis, who is still 26 years old, can to be called the best player in the world, but it’s going to take another season like this for that to happen.
I know that we are legally bound to have this debate annually. But it’s as ridiculous a question today as the year we did this about Kawhi Leonard, or the year we did Kevin Durant, or the year people tried so hard to do it Stephen Curry. The best player on Earth, when healthy, is still LeBron James.
I know that’s boring and thoughtful for some people, but it’s still verifiable. Or did everyone forget that the man was one of the leading MVP candidates before his injury on March 20, averaging 25.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 7.9 assists and shooting .513 from the field, .368 from the field. the 3 point range? Yes, he got hurt and missed some games. Guess what? He still played TEN games more than Durant, who, while younger, will always have the specter of Achilles’ injury hanging over him.
As devastating as Antetokounmpo is as a scorer, James is still the best shooter, the best passer, and the most complete player. Could Giannis emerge as the best consensual player on Earth? Yes, but not until James finally and definitely gives up the title. He hasn’t done it yet.
Yes. And while some may see it as a prisoner-of-the-moment response, think of it this way: Antetokounmpo was the reigning two-time MVP until a month ago. If last year’s NBA title and LeBron was the person who kept you from giving Giannis the distinction of best player, consider that the gap in durability, particularly with LBJ’s last three seasons and his sheer age, is growing. Only Kawhi Leonard can make the two-way player argument that Giannis can, and Kawhi’s durability is an annual matter now. Kevin Durant is also not a fact from a health standpoint. With Antetokounmpo, 26, and the Bucks sitting on the throne, and having been this dominant, it’s hard to see how the guy wouldn’t be for now, at least.
For the first time in a long time, I definitely can’t say who I think is the best player in the NBA. LeBron James had had that crown for at least a decade in my mind, but between age and injury, the throne may finally no longer be his. So if one were to say that Giannis has taken that title after winning the championship with a historic performance in the NBA Finals, it would be very difficult to disagree. However, I would still lean a bit towards Kevin Durant. It wasn’t that long ago that KD came within an inch of eliminating the Bucks with his fellow superstars out or limping, and I don’t think many people would have said that Giannis was better after that series. And since he’s so close, I’ll let the Greek Freak fix the tie, as he himself called Durant the best in the NBA.
More coverage of the NBA Finals:
• Giannis Strengthens Legacy with Championship Win
• Bucks’ title marks satisfy tough season finale
• The Bucks’ long game pays off
• Monty Williams of the Suns congratulates the Bucks
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.