Giannis Antetokounmpo has officially reached legendary status, winning his first NBA championship with the Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis was sensational in the closeout Game 6, dropping 50 points and completing one of the most historic Finals comebacks. Down 0-2 in the series, many thought there was no way for the Giannis and the Bucks to come back. But they did it, and Giannis helped deliver a title to Milwaukee for the first time since 1971.
With 2 MVPs, a Defensive Player of the Year Award, and an NBA title to his name; where does Giannis rank among the greatest forwards ever? We have seen some incredible talent at his position throughout history, and at 26 years of age, he is already entering the conversation among them. Giannis has a long way before his career is over, but it is time to rank the only players ahead of The Greek Freak in the all-time forward rankings.
6. Kawhi Leonard
Players Stats: 19.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Honors: 2x Finals MVP, 5x All-Star, 5x All-NBA Selection, 7x All-Defensive Team, 2x Defensive Player of the Year, 2014-2015 Steals Champion
Kawhi Leonard has won the elusive NBA championship on 2 separate occasions, a feat which places him over Giannis Antetokounmpo in the all-time rankings. Even if Kawhi never came close to winning an MVP, he has 2 Defensive Player of the Year Awards and 2 Finals MVPs. Giannis is only one ring away from usurping Kawhi, but considering the amount of talent in the NBA nowadays, it will be easier said than done in winning it.
But Giannis is getting closer every season to reaching the top-5. Kawhi has proven he could be the best two-way star in the league by winning 2 championships, including an incredible postseason run in 2019 which saw him deliver the only title in Toronto’s history. Giannis is on the heels of Kawhi, but only one more championship is in the way of passing The Klaw.
5. Karl Malone
Players Stats: 25.0 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Honors: 2x MVP, 14x All-Star, 14x All-NBA Team Selection, 4x All-Defensive, Hal of Fame
Even if Karl Malone never won an NBA championship, his accolades and impact on the game of basketball can not be disputed. As a matter of fact, if not for the greatest player ever in Michael Jordan, we are looking at an NBA champion. Malone is currently the 3rd highest scorer in NBA history, a 2-time MVP, and one of the most unstoppable stars in the history of the game. Even if Malone never had the athleticism of Giannis, he was proficient with his mid-range shot and even from the free-throw line.
The Mailman simply played too many years at an elite level to be surpassed this early on in the career of The Greek Freak. Malone has a whopping 14 All-NBA Teams to his name, while Giannis has 5. Considering Giannis is 26, it would mean he would need to remain at a superstar level until the age of 35 years old to make as many All-NBA Teams. Malone was simply too consistent of a scorer and postseason performer to not be considered above Giannis, even if he is 0-2 in the Finals.
4. Kevin Durant
Players Stats: 27.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.1 BPG
Honors: 2x Finals MVP, 2013-2014 MVP, 11x All-Star, 9x All-NBA Selection, 4x Scoring Champion, 2007-2008 Rookie of the Year
There is no doubt that Kevin Durant is a better player than Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is better defensively and has incredible physical gifts, but Durant is one of the most skilled players in the history of the game. Durant does not have a single weakness in his game, whether it is his three-point shot or his free-throw shooting. Not to mention, Durant can score from anywhere on the court without hesitation.
Durant plays small forward for the majority of his career which makes him a different player to Giannis, but he is still a better superstar. Even if Durant benefitted from playing on a superteam while Giannis won in his own city, he still has 2 championships and 2 Finals MVPs. Durant also has 4 scoring titles and more All-Star Teams to his name. If Giannis can win another ring and possibly another MVP, it is very realistic that he surpasses Durant in the all-time rankings which would be incredible to witness.
3. Larry Bird
Players Stats: 24.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Honors: 2x Finals MVP, 3x MVP, 12x All-Star, 10x All-NBA Selection, 3x All-Defensive, 1979-1980 Rookie of the Year, Hall of Fame
The man who was once the face of the NBA, it will be hard for Giannis to usurp the great Larry Bird. Bird was one of the most competitive players to ever play the game and has accolades that are hard to compare with. The Celtics legend has 3 MVPs, 3 championships, and 2 Finals MVPs with one franchise. He is also one of the best shooters in NBA history, and a player opponents feared when he had the ball in crunch time.
Larry Bird had a relatively short career by only playing 13 seasons, but he accomplished a lot in that period. Bird also never experienced the type of criticism that Giannis faced in terms of performing in crunch time and especially with his shooting, which makes him a more impactful star. Giannis needs another 2 championships and another MVP to possibly surpass what Bird brought to the table as one of the greatest players who ever lived, regardless of position.
2. Tim Duncan
Players Stats: 19.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.7, 2.2 BPG
Honors: 3x Finals MVP, 2x MVP, 15x All-Star, 15x All-NBA, 15x All-Defensive, 1997-1998 Rookie of the Year, Hall of Fame
Of course, 5-time NBA champion Tim Duncan is almost untouchable. He is by far the greatest power forward of all time and was even considered the best player on the Spurs by his rookie season, where he won Rookie of the Year. Duncan has had a career with unbelievable longevity, making 15 All-NBA Teams and 15 All-Defensive Teams in addition to winning 2 MVPs and 3 Finals MVPs. Even beyond the incredible accolades, Duncan’s impact was surreal.
The big man held down a Spurs franchise for nearly 2 decades, a type of loyalty that even Giannis Antetokounmpo will struggle to replicate. Duncan was forever a Spur and never had thoughts of being anywhere else, and always delivered as a two-way performer. Giannis was far more athletic, but Duncan had arguably the highest basketball IQ as a power forward and will likely forever remain a top-2 forward who played the game.
1. LeBron James
Players Stats: 27.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Honors: 4x Finals MVP, 4x MVP, 17x All-Star, 17x All-NBA Selection, 6x All-Defensive, 2007-2008 Scoring Champion, 2020 Assists Champion, 2003-2004 Rookie of the Year
Giannis Antetokounmpo is a tremendous talent who will soon be among the top-5 forwards who have ever played, but he will never surpass LeBron James. The King is doing incredible things as an 18-year veteran who amassed achievements that no player will ever eclipse.
It is likely that Giannis will not be at a superstar level until 36 years old like LeBron has been, and will struggle to capture 4 NBA championships especially if he stays in Milwaukee. James also has 17 All-Star and All-NBA appearances, something almost inhuman.
James always revolutionized his game, developing a jumper when he didn’t have one entering the league. He also took control of a scoring role or a passing role, the latter of which he does better than Giannis. James also has a chance to retire as the game’s greatest scorer by surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in total points scored and has the record of most points scored in the playoffs by over 1000 points ahead of second place. James was a machine unlike anyone we have ever seen at his position, and he will forever reign supreme as the greatest forward who ever lived.
Giannis Is Currently 7th All-Time, Although He Is One Ring From Being Top-5
Giannis Antetokounmpo is currently behind 6 other superstars who played the small forward and power forward positions. Passing the likes of Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, and Charles Barkley is already enough to place Giannis in the Hall of Fame. At 26 years of age, he has close to a decade at a minimum to continue climbing the charts of all-time great forwards.
But as things stand, Giannis is 7th in NBA history. That is an incredible feat at such a young age because we have seen so many dominant forwards who changed the NBA game. Giannis has a chance to crack the top-5 list by winning one more title, which would place him above Kawhi Leonard and Karl Malone. The Greek Freak would have 2 MVPs to Kawhi’s none, and 2 rings to Malone’s none. That is enough evidence to solidify Giannis as a top-5 forward ever with a chance to begin surpassing Kevin Durant.
If Giannis wins another ring, he is right behind Durant in the all-time rankings. Whether he passes Durant depends on two factors: skillset and accolades. Giannis needs another ring and at least another MVP, along with the proof that he developed a more consistent jumper. Durant only has 1 MVP, but he is one of the most skilled players in NBA history. Giannis has a ways to go to prove to people that he is more skilled and more dominant than Durant, who might be the most unstoppable scorer we have ever seen.
Many feared that Giannis was at risk of retiring an all-time great player without a ring thanks to his stubborn loyalty, but he pushed those fears away last night. Giannis has entered the conversation of all-time great forwards and has leapfrogged a ton of top forwards to enter the top-10. He is only a championship away from entering the top-5 and has a real shot of surpassing Kevin Durant as a more impactful player. The Milwaukee Bucks are a fantastic team and they have the pieces to contend for the next few years at least, giving Giannis a chance to become a multiple-time champion.
With the amount of talent around the league right now, Giannis would do well to win at least one more championship with the Bucks. The Greek Freak deserves a lot of credit for winning in the city that drafted him, something Karl Malone or Kevin Durant could not even do. If Giannis adds one more ring, we are looking at a top-5 forward ever although he would need to be almost impossibly great to surpass Larry Bird to even come close to Tim Duncan or LeBron James. Still, bringing the first title in 50 years to the city of Milwaukee is a special achievement that could give Giannis the juice to continue building his case as a legend of the game.
Michael Jordan And Shaquille O'Neal Are The Only Players Who Have 3 Championships And 3 Finals MVPs In A Row
Team No. 23 vs. Team No. 34: Michael Jordan And LeBron James vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo And Shaquille O'Neal