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There Is No Reason to Compare Giannis Antetokounmpo to Michael Jordan or LeBron James Right Now

Kyle Koster
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
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One topic the shows have leaned into with both shoulders today is who is under more pressure to win these NBA Finals, Chris Paul or Giannis Antetokounmpo — or its close cousin: who would benefit most from a championship? It's not as interesting to acknowledge that both players really, really want to win and will do anything within their power to capitalize on the rare opportunity. Nebulous legacy dissection, a term that is quite dynamic from person to person, is much sexier.

Speak For Yourself's Emmanuel Acho this afternoon explained why he believes Giannis can do more for his legacy than Paul by comparing the Milwaukee Bucks superstar to both LeBron James and Michael Jordan at the age of 26. He correctly points out that Antetokounmpo would be ahead in the pace for the almighty rings should his team prevail.

And if forced to answer a similar question, I think I'd agree. Paul's specific demon was never reaching the Finals. A historic and cold-blooded performance against the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals was a public exorcism done with panache and iron guts. Giannis is still looking to prove that those two MVP awards won't simply collect dust as he fails to put some team hardware in the trophy case.

But the important thing to remember here is that a player's legacy isn't done at 26. So if Milwaukee wins, it will be the beginning of something for Antetokounmpo. He'll have more mountains to climb. Because the reason most sober-minded people put James and Jordan 1-2 in terms of the GOAT conversation is because they did it year after year after year. The all-time greats are seen that way because it feels as though they were always great.

While it may be accurate to say someone is on pace to best their accomplishments may be technically correct. Yet it doesn't really convey the full scope of the race, which is a marathon and not a sprint. Giannis would need this one plus five more to match Jordan. Not that easy!

One could make the argument the millions of factors that can go into making a champion make forecasting players' long-term successes and failures a bit of a fool errand. Through that lens no one is truly on pace or ahead of pace of Jordan and LeBron unless the public really believes they can match the second halves of these historic careers. Does anyone feel confident enough to suggest that Giannis will do so with a straight face?

Not yet. And that's fine. That's the way it's supposed to be, even if debating someone's entire body of work before they're even halfway done swinging the hammer draws decent eyeballs.

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