He glided down the court, assessed his options, and quickly decided on the option that only a few years ago would have seemed foolish. But on this night, it looked effortless and as if it belonged. Giannis Antetokounmpo pulled up from three, swished the basket, and ran back down the court, and capped it off with a little gesture signifying what everyone was already thinking.
Giannis finally found his jump shot, and now he's coming for the throne.
In a primetime matchup pitting the East-leading Bucks against the West-leading Lakers, Giannis Antetokounmpo outdueled Anthony Davis and LeBron James, verifying that the Greek Freak is the best that this league can see on a nightly basis.
And in an almost symbolic fashion, after Giannis strutted back down the floor after his career-high fifth three-pointer, he stole the crown from on top of the King's head, and rightfully placed it on his own. It had been rumored to be coming for the past few years, but now the day is finally here. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the league's best player, and the case for it isn't really close.
When Giannis was awarded MVP in 2018-2019, pundits and fans around the league knew that this might just be the surface of what Giannis Antetokounmpo is capable of accomplishing in his career. They pondered, "If only he had a jump shot or took more threes, then he would be dangerous!"
The fact is: Giannis has been hitting threes, and he's been nailing them too. This season, Giannis has attempted 5.2 three-point attempts per game and hits about 1.8 of them, good for 33.8%, almost hitting his career-high three-point percentage he accomplished his rookie year. What's more is that Giannis is averaging his least amount of minutes in four seasons, and is putting up better numbers, to the tune of 4.1 PPG, 0.3 RPG, and +/- 1.8.
The debate this season will be whether or not Antetokounmpo will repeat his MVP title from last season, or if James Harden will retake that appellation. There is no denying that James Harden is scoring at a pace that has rarely been seen, and gaudy numbers like 38.5 PPG along with 7.5 APG and 5.8 RPG tilt the scales significantly in Harden's favor when comparing them to Antetokounmpo's. Harden is also averaging 6 minutes more per game than Antetokounmpo, asking the question if Antetokounmpo should be penalized for being on a team that decimates opponents before they get a chance to gain traction.
Advanced Analytics favor the Freak as well. Compared to James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo scores almost as well in Offensive Rating and posts a Defensive Rating that is 9.2 points higher than Harden's and a Net Rating 6.5 points higher. With identical Usage Rates and a higher Player Impact Estimate (PIE), the case for a new Greek King is even better.
It was a simple gesture caught after one of the most pivotal and shocking moments of the game. Giannis curled his fingers and crowned himself as the new King of the NBA. And so far, nobody appears capable of ripping the crown off of his head. No one wants to either, he's the MyCareer player we've been waiting to see grace hardwood since the game of basketball was created. Giannis Antetokounmpo has taken over the NBA dominion, and the system is in place for him to thrive for quite a while.