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Comparing Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, And Michael Jordan At Age 26


Giannis Antetokounmpo made history by capturing his first NBA championship this year. At age 26, he is already a Hall of Famer with some exceptional achievements, including an NBA title, Finals MVP, 2 MVPs, and a Defensive Player of the Year Award. Even when The Greek Freak is blessed with incomparable athleticism, his hard work and dedication to his craft have allowed him to become the best player in the NBA.

But how does Giannis Antetokounmpo compare to what other all-time great legends did when they were 26? Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James have all been regarded as the best players in their respective eras and Giannis might have gained some ground on these Hall of Fame players with his success this season. Here are the player rankings between Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Michael Jordan at age 26.

4. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo Delivers His Promise, Becomes Best Player In The World

Stat Totals: 12319 points, 5371 rebounds, 2632 assists, 692 steals, 765 blocks

Stat Averages: 20.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.3 BPG

FG Percentage: 53.2%

Games Played: 589

Championships: 1

Finals MVP Awards: 1

MVP Awards: 2

All-Star Game MVP Awards: 1

Defensive Player of the Year Awards: 1

Rookie Of The Year: No

All-Star Teams: 5

All-NBA Teams: 5

All-Defensive Teams: 4

Giannis Antetokounmpo has achieved incredible success at such a young age. The Greek Freak already has placed himself in a special company by being one of the only players with an MVP, Finals MVP, and a Defensive Player of the Year Award. He is one of three to accomplish this, joining Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon.

But Giannis also has the advantage of staying with one franchise, winning an NBA title, and the rest of his achievements with the Bucks. In an era where player movement is the norm, this type of loyalty has to be respected because Milwaukee drafted him and believed in him from the beginning. The only reason Giannis checks in at #4 on this list is that his skill set does not quite match up to the other 3 superstars.

Giannis is a special talent and might be the most blessed athlete in terms of athleticism, but he is a very inconsistent shooter (career 28.7% 3-PT and 71.7% FT) which is a glaring weakness in his game. Even when LeBron James was inconsistent in coming into the NBA as a young player, he never suffered the type of inefficiencies Giannis has every season. Of course, The Greek Freak put fears away temporarily by nailing 17-19 free throws in a closeout Game 6 to win the championship. But overall, he must prove to be a more consistent shooter because the other 3 superstars on this list did not have a glaring weakness in their game at age 26.

3. LeBron James

LeBron James Miami Heat

Stat Totals: 17362 points, 4451 rebounds, 4364 assists, 1079 steals, 532 blocks

Stat Averages: 27.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 7.0 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.8 BPG

FG Percentage: 47.9%

Games Played: 627

Championships: 0

Finals MVP Awards: 0

MVP Awards: 2

All-Star Game MVP Awards: 2

Defensive Player of the Year Awards: 0

Rookie of the Year: 1

All-Star Teams: 7

All-NBA Teams: 7

All-Defensive Teams: 3

In terms of all-around dominance by the age of 26, LeBron James is number one. He already scored over 17,000 points, grabbed over 4,000 rebounds, and dished over 4,000 assists. No player in the history of the game had the mix of physical gifts, talent, and IQ that James had at age 26. While Giannis was similar in terms of size and ability to dominate the game on a physical level, he was not as refined as The King.

The only thing standing in LeBron’s way was an NBA title, which he failed to capture in an iconic 2011 Finals series. LeBron decided to join the Miami Heat in free agency, forming a superteam alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Unsurprisingly, the Heat made the Finals but LeBron was unable to capitalize against the Mavericks and lost his 2nd Finals appearance. That meant the 2-time MVP was ringless by the time he was 26 years old, marking his 8th year in the league.

Still, LeBron’s accolades were special. He already had 7 All-Star and 7 All-NBA Teams to his name, along with 2 MVP Awards he won with the Cavaliers. James was also one of the most dominant rookies in NBA history, winning Rookie of the Year. While James did not have a Defensive Player of the Year Award like Giannis and even failed to win a title, his statistics and all-around ability made him a better player than Giannis at 26 years old.

2. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant

Stat Totals: 14034 points, 3209 rebounds, 2788 assists, 912 steals, 401 blocks

Stat Averages: 22.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.4 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.6 BPG

FG: 45.2%

Games Played: 627

Championships: 3

Finals MVP Awards: 0

MVP Awards: 0

All-Star Game MVP Awards: 1

Defensive Player of the Year Awards: 0

Rookie of the Year: 0

All-Star Teams: 8

All-NBA Teams: 7

All-Defensive Teams: 5

Kobe Bryant got off to an incredible start to his NBA career, by being placed in a championship situation by the time he was 19 years old. The Lakers already had the most dominant big man in the game in Shaquille O’Neal, and Bryant’s maturation into a star was a big part of their success together. By the time Bryant was 26 years old, he was already a 3-time NBA champion with 4 Finals appearances.

Kobe and Shaq went 3-1 in the Finals with O’Neal capturing all 3 Finals MVP Awards, but Bryant’s clutch scoring and two-way play helped the Lakers become the most unstoppable team in the league. By the time Kobe was 26, he was also the youngest player in NBA history to record 14,000 points. Bryant became an All-Star in his second season and made the All-NBA Team by his third year. The future Lakers legend would play a whopping 9 years in the league by age 26, giving him a headstart to accumulate stats and achievements.

By age 26, Kobe was almost a finished product. He was dominant defensively, had an unstoppable scoring ability when he attacked the rim and had a beautiful jumper. That is why the Lakers decided to trade 3-time Finals MVP Shaquille O’Neal in favor of The Black Mamba. LeBron James was able to score more points than Kobe by age 26 along with grabbing more rebounds and assists, but choking in the 2011 Finals appearance does not compare to Kobe’s performances in his 4 Finals appearances. Similarly, Giannis only has 1 ring compared to Bryant’s 3 which ultimately gives Kobe the advantage over both.

1. Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

Stat Totals: 14016 points, 2694 rebounds, 2565 assists, 1189 steals, 465 blocks

Stat Averages: 32.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 6.0 APG, 2.8 SPG, 1.1 BPG

FG: 51.6%

Games Played: 427

Championships: 0

Finals MVP Awards: 0

MVP Awards: 1

All-Star Game MVP Awards: 1

Defensive Player of the Year Awards: 1

Rookie of the Year: 1

All-Star Teams: 6

All-NBA Teams: 5

All-Defensive Teams: 3

It is widely undisputed that Michael Jordan was the best player anyone had seen at age 26. He was already described as the most talented player in the game by his rookie season at age 21, but Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were still winning MVP Awards and NBA titles. Johnson and Bird won 5 out of the 6 MVP Awards handed out in that period, with Jordan grabbing the MVP in 1988 which is the same season he won Defensive Player of the Year.

Jordan was also the most spectacular rookie by winning Rookie of the Year averaging 28.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, and 5.9 APG. He made the All-Star Team every year from his rookie season, and the All-Defensive Team 3 times. Most importantly, Jordan did not have an NBA championship to his name by the age of 26. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kobe Bryant did, so why is Jordan still number one?

Because he was the most spectacular player. He averaged over 32 PPG for 4 of his first 6 seasons in the league while dominating as the best defensive guard and most athletic player on the court. Jordan would also win his first title the following season, kicking off a spectacular 3-peat before his temporary retirement. Kobe had the rings, Giannis and LeBron had the stats and MVPs, but Jordan was the greatest player of all time by age 26, and that will likely never change.

Which Player Was Greater At Age 26?

Michael Jordan was the best player at age 26, in terms of impact on the game and individual skill. He was a finished product on both ends of the floor, had the best statistics, and was the most unstoppable player in the league. Even though Jordan does not have any rings and only 1 MVP by age 26, he was just getting started in a league still dominated by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. By 28, he was an NBA champion and by age 30, he already had a 3-peat with 3 Finals MVPs.

Kobe had 3 rings by age 26, but he played with Shaquille O’Neal. LeBron James choked away a chance at a ring at age 26, although he had 2 MVPs. Giannis has a strong argument by having a ring, 2 MVPs, and a Defensive Player of the Year Award; but he benefitted greatly with a postseason filled with injuries. Each one of these 4 superstars has an argument for the best player at 26 years old, but it is hard to argue against Jordan.

If not for Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, widely regarded as two of the best players ever, Jordan would have had at least 4 MVPs and possibly an NBA title. But Jordan did not have the benefit of playing with Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh by the time he turned 26 and still was the most impactful player on both ends of the floor. Kobe comes in at second thanks to his 3 rings, LeBron at 3rd because of his tremendous all-around play with 2 NBA Finals appearances, and Giannis ends the list at 4th thanks to the championship ring he won this year.