Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo can join some elite company, should he take home his third NBA MVP award at the end of the regular season. If he can edge out Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokić, we can finally lay the best player in the world debate to rest. We can’t continue to deny Antetokounmpo his bouquet of roses.
Only eight players in the league’s history have won three or more MVP awards. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (6), Bill Russell (5), Michael Jordan (5), Wilt Chamberlain (4), LeBron James (4), Moses Malone (3), Larry Bird (3), and Magic Johnson (3). Antetokounmpo has a great shot at becoming the ninth player on this list with the stellar year he’s having. He could also win his first scoring title, averaging 29.9 ppg. He’s currently second behind James.
There’s been this great debate over who the best player in the world is, and some still say it’s Kevin Durant. A few million might say LeBron, and then, of course, we have those in the Giannis camp. Should Antetokounmpo be named MVP again, that would be three times that he’s claimed the award in four years.
I’ll make this very simple. If Giannis wins the MVP this year, Giannis will take the crown of king of the league, best in the world, or whatever you want to call it. I’m a big fan of Durant’s game just like anyone else, but Giannis continues to show the league his worth night after night. Contrary to the belief of some, Antetokounmpo isn’t playing with a Big 3 in Milwaukee. A dynamic duo? Maybe. But Giannis, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday aren’t a Big 3.
Last year, Durant had a Big 3 and couldn’t get it done. I don’t blame anyone for the injuries necessarily, but the fact remains that Brooklyn came up a toe short (long really) in the postseason against Giannis and the Bucks. Durant’s still trying to prove he can lead a team to an NBA title. Best player and leader aren’t always synonymous. Steph Curry was, is, and always will be the leader of the Golden State Warriors for as long as he’s able to chuck up 35-footers in NBA arenas.
The Bucks got the job done by winning a championship last season, regardless of what happened along the way. I don’t think they’ll do it again this postseason, but it wouldn’t completely shock me if they did. Any chance they have will be on Giannis’ broad shoulders. Coming into this season, I’d even tried to hold onto Durant being the best player in the league, but as the season has rolled on, it’s become harder and harder to ignore Antetokounmpo.
Giannis is probably still the best two-way player in the league, and already has a Defensive Player of the Year award to prove it. So, it isn’t only about his offense, because he plays at a high level on both ends of the court. On Tuesday night in Philadelphia, Giannis had all his skills on display against the 76ers’ MVP candidate Embiid. The Greek Freak scored 40 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, dished out six assists, and even chipped in three blocks and a steal. He also came up with the game-sealing block on Embiid with time running out in the fourth quarter to secure the 118-116 victory.
As the season winds down, I think it’s more like a two-man race between Giannis and Embiid for the MVP award. Jokić is having a great year, too, but the Nuggets could end up the six seed in the Western Conference, which will be factored into the voting. And both the Bucks and Sixers still have a shot at the No. 1 seed in the East. Right now, Milwaukee holds a 1-game lead over Philly for the No. 2 seed, with the Heat clinging to a 1-game lead overall. Whichever team finishes higher, that player will probably hoist the MVP this season.