Comparing Shaquille O'Neal And Giannis Antetokounmpo At Age 26: The Kings Of Domination

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Comparing Shaquille O'Neal And Giannis Antetokounmpo At Age 26: The Kings Of Domination

Giannis Antetokounmpo completed one of the best postseason runs over the past decade by carrying the Milwaukee Bucks to their first championship since 1971. Giannis was sensational, averaging 30.2 PPG and 12.8 RPG throughout the playoffs and becoming the best player in the world.

The Greek Freak was so good that Shaquille O'Neal finally allowed another player to take his nickname, "Superman". In many ways, Giannis was Superman this season after closing out the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 with a 50-point performance. But does Giannis, at 26 years old, eclipse what Shaquille O'Neal accomplished at that age? It is time to decide.


Season Statistics

Shaquille O'Neal: 26.3 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.7 BPG

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 28.1 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.2 BPG

In terms of season statistics and overall dominance, Giannis might have the greater stats but that is also as a result of the era he is playing in. There are many more possessions in today's game and the lack of defensive resistance means a player of Antetokounmpo's size can generate extraordinary statistics.

But there is no doubt Giannis is a better playmaker and athlete than O'Neal, although Shaq was much bigger and stronger as an old-school center. In Shaq's day, his stats were incredible and he was the most dominant player in the league so there is little to separate both players in that regard.

Advantage: Even


NBA Titles

Shaquille O'Neal: 0

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 1

Winning an NBA title has placed Giannis in special company because he is only 26 years old and managed to win a championship for his team. Giannis did not force a trade to another team to do this and allowed the Bucks time to build a contender around him. Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are All-Star caliber players, but neither will make the Hall of Fame and did not form a superteam but rather a solid Big Three.

Shaq was waiting on an up-and-coming Kobe Bryant to mature so that they could win together, and O'Neal would become an NBA champion by 27 years old. Of course, O'Neal would win 3 straight titles by the time he was 30. But Giannis was able to get there quicker without a superteam, winning a title at the tender age of 26.

Advantage: Giannis Antetokounmpo


MVP Awards

Shaquille O'Neal: 0

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 2

Shaquille O'Neal, for some odd reason, only has 1 MVP Award to his name. O'Neal has an argument for winning one of the MVPs that Steve Nash won, and should be a multiple-time MVP. But by the time Shaq was 26, he didn't win an MVP Award. However, Giannis Antetokounmpo did.

Giannis won back-to-back MVP Awards in 2019 and 2020, carrying his team to the best record in the league on both occasions. Antetokounmpo's ability to score, defend, and set up teammates was second to none during those seasons and that is why he edges Shaquille O'Neal in that achievement.

Advantage: Giannis Antetokounmpo


Defensive Player of the Year Awards

Shaquille O'Neal: 0

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 1

Many claim that O'Neal did not put his heart into practice or playing defense, but that couldn't be true. O'Neal, through his sheer size and mobility, was able to be a force around the rim on defense. While he struggled to defend quicker centers like Hakeem Olajuwon, he was a solid defender and averaged 1.7 BPG at age 26.

But O'Neal did not possess the versatility of Giannis Antetokounmpo, a player capable of defending all 5 positions. Giannis was so good defensively that he earned a Defensive Player of the Year Award at age 25, averaging 1.0 SPG and 1.0 BPG. Even though O'Neal was a better shot blocker, Giannis was a better all-around defender by age 26.

Advantage: Giannis Antetokounmpo


All-Star Appearances

Shaquille O'Neal: 6

Giannis Antetokounmpo: 5

Giannis has developed into arguably the best player in the game, but it took him 4 years to become an All-Star. Giannis made the All-Rookie Team in his first season by averaging 6.8 PPG and 4.4 RPG, but nobody saw his improvement coming this fast. The Greek Freak became the Most Improved Player at age 22 and made his first All-Star Team in his 4th season.

On the other end, Shaquille O'Neal was a superstar from the minute he stepped foot on an NBA floor. The Diesel averaged 23.4 PPG and 13.9 RPG in his first season, running away with the Rookie of the Year Award. By the time Shaq was 26, he made the All-Star Team every year and was a better player earlier on than Giannis was.

Advantage: Shaquille O'Neal


Conclusion

Taking into account impact, statistics, and achievements; it is hard to argue that Giannis Antetokounmpo had a better career by age 26 when compared to Shaquille O'Neal. While O'Neal was a more physically powerful player who made an extra All-Star appearance, he did not have the success that The Greek Freak had.

The achievements that Giannis has accumulated by age 26 is truly extraordinary on an individual and team level. Giannis has proved himself to be the best defender in the league and the most dominant all-around player. 2 MVPs and a Defensive Player of the Year Award sit nicely beside his NBA championship and Finals MVP. While Giannis has a ways to go to usurp Shaq as a greater all-time player as a whole, he was the better player by age 26.

Credit for the idea: Timeout Hoops

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