Who is the real king of the NBA? LeBron James was named the greatest player of the past decade for his 3 NBA rings and consistency as arguably the best passer and leader in the game. His basketball I.Q. is sensational and he has drawn comparisons to the great Magic Johnson for his play with the ball.
But Giannis Antetokounmpo is (most likely) a two-time MVP who has led the Milwaukee Bucks to the best record in the league for two straight years. He seems to be the one carrying the torch from LeBron James, who is 35 years of age and will start showing decline at some point.
In order to put the debate to rest, and settle who is the king of the NBA, it is time to compare the two best players in the NBA today to come out with one winner.
Scoring – Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis is averaging 29.6 PPG on 55.2% shooting from the field. He is also shooting 63.0% from the free-throw line and only 31.2% from three. It’s amazing how Giannis can score this much despite not being a natural shooter from the perimeter.
LeBron James is clearly not the same scorer as he used to be, since he has lost at least half a step at driving to the basket. LeBron may not be as quick as he used to be, but he can still get to the rim at will when he wants to. LeBron is also a much better shooter from three, shooting 34.5% from three. His free throw percentage is not very good either (69.6%), and he is averaging 25.3 PPG this year.
Overall, Giannis is a better scorer because he is simply younger and more athletic. He can get any shot he wants and is required to score the ball more for his team while LeBron can rely on Anthony Davis.
Athleticism – Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo is probably the most athletic player in the game today. He is extremely long, stands 7 feet tall, and moves like a point guard. He is called “The Greek Freak” for a reason. As a matter of fact, Giannis is as dominant as he is because he is so athletic. He uses his physical gifts to control the game, and that is why he is most likely a two-time MVP.
LeBron is still one of the most athletic players in the NBA, somehow. He is 35 years old yet moves like he is in his late 20’s. LeBron is still explosive and is capable of throwing down jams over most defenders on any given night. However, he has undoubtedly lost a step in his athleticism which gives Giannis the edge here.
Defense – Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis Antetokounmpo is a great offensive player, and his scoring numbers are clear to see. But Giannis Antetokounmpo is considered the best player in the NBA right now because he is equally as effective on defense. Giannis is averaging 1.2 SPG and 1.3 BPG this season, but his impact goes beyond the numbers. Giannis can guard all five positions at any given time, using his physical gifts and talent to stick with players and bother their shots. Giannis is also one of the favorites for the Defensive Player of the Year Award this season.
LeBron James has not been effective on defense for a few years now, since he simply has too much responsibility on offense. LeBron does everything for his team on offense, including being the primary playmaker and also a main scorer, which sacrifices his defensive ability. The fact that Giannis is one of the favorites for the DPOY Award makes this a no-contest.
Clutch – LeBron James
Giannis Antetokounmpo has everything, but his ability in clutch moments has come under question. The most recent example was his poor decision making against the Houston Rockets on July 31, as he was denied a shot and forced into a turnover by James Harden of all people. Not to mention, Giannis needs some more time to develop his decision making in clutch moments in the playoffs. The fact that Giannis isn’t a great shooter also harms him in the clutch. He has time to correct this, but right now LeBron James is a better clutch player.
LeBron has put to rest the criticisms that he is not clutch. LeBron will never be a clutch scorer like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, but he will make the right plays like Magic Johnson. His ability to read the defense and come up with a great look for himself or his teammates automatically makes him a more clutch player than Antetokounmpo. James doesn’t struggle with decision making and he is experienced enough in clutch moments to be productive.
Leader – LeBron James
Other than Chris Paul, LeBron James is probably the best leader in the league. He holds everyone responsible for his play and even his off-court behavior, which is as pristine as you can get. James has been the best player in the world over the past decade, and he has done everything there is to accomplish in the game of basketball. Every player respects him and follows his lead.
Giannis is improving as a leader and is slowly becoming the #1 most dominant player in the NBA. It is only a matter of time before he becomes the undisputed face of the NBA, but he needs to get it done in the playoffs first. Giannis is getting there, but he is nowhere near the leader LeBron is.
Basketball I.Q. – LeBron James
When it comes to basketball I.Q., LeBron James is probably #1 in NBA history. We have never seen a player who can make the right play every single time without fail. When he was younger, this was often to a fault as he would defer to the open man rather than taking the big shots for himself. But LeBron knows how to play the game better than anyone else in the NBA, and the fact that he leads the league in APG in his 16th year is a testament to his greatness.
Giannis Antetokounmpo clearly has a high I.Q and is one of the best overall players in the league right now. He dominates the game on both ends and does not have a weakness besides his inconsistent shooting. Antetokounmpo is probably the most likely player to take over the reign from LeBron as the highest I.Q. player, but he has a ways to go to catch up.
Impact – Even
This is the hardest one to gauge. LeBron is leading the league in assists and is the best passer in the game today. He knows how to control the pace of the game and does not have a weakness at this stage of his career.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is a stat sheet stuffer and is the reason the Bucks have the best record in the league right now. His impact is deniable and he is probably the best two-way player in the game right now.
Taking everything into consideration, both players have an equal impact. Giannis may have the scoring and rebounding numbers, but LeBron James evens it up as he is simply the best playmaker in the league.
1 on 1 – Giannis Antetokounmpo
At the stage of both of their careers, Giannis Antetokounmpo is a better one on one player than LeBron James. This is no knock on LeBron, who still has brute force and is still explosive at getting by defenders. But Giannis is spry and he uses his freakish gifts to dominate any defender in his way. One on one, Giannis is simply unstoppable.
LeBron has been more of an exceptional team player this season, averaging 10.3 APG and running the show for the Lakers. He has made Anthony Davis the main scoring option on the team and is happy controlling the pace of the game as the team’s point guard. Of course, LeBron can score when he wants to, averaging 25.3 PPG this season, but he isn’t as aggressive as in previous years in terms of scoring.
Giannis, on the other hand, is the primary scorer on the team and he uses a mix of bully ball and athleticism to score his points. Giannis can back you down, use dribble moves to get to his spots, and finish at the rim better than most players in the league. He has the edge in this one.
Career – LeBron James
Without a doubt, LeBron has had a greater career than Giannis Antetokounmpo. Though Giannis is only 24 and just getting started, LeBron has already captured 3 NBA titles and has proven himself in every facet of the game. Whatever accolades there is, LeBron has it. He has made 16 All-Star games, made 10 All-NBA teams, won the MVP 4 times, and the Finals MVP 3 times. LeBron has had a sensational 16-year career in the league with a run that is simply unprecedented.
Giannis will soon have 2 MVPs to his name and has made 3 All-Star and 3 All-NBA appearances so far. Giannis has a lot of work to do to equal LeBron’s legendary career, so LeBron has the edge here.
LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo even it up in terms of all the major attributes. They are simply too close to differentiate at the moment since LeBron has proven everything in the game of basketball while Giannis Antetokounmpo is still getting started.
In conclusion, LeBron James is the King of the West while Giannis is the King of the East. Time will tell if Giannis will be able to capture the throne for good since LeBron doesn’t seem to be going anywhere for now.
LeBron James vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo 4-4