LeBron James has been the near unanimous best player in the NBA for about a decade. However, in James’ first year with the Los Angeles Lakers, Giannis Antetoukounmpo is threatening to take that crown in what’s been an MVP-caliber season for the Milwaukee Bucks.
Throughout this, James and Antetokounmpo have developed a personal relationship, and it was one that was on display when the two were chosen as captains for the 2019 NBA All-Star Game. James later publicly complimented Antetokounmpo for his dedication to basketball.
Recently, Giannis reflected on the relationship he’s built with James, and seemed rather shocked as to how close they’ve become in both on court stature and off court friendship, via Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
“I didn’t expect myself to be getting that close and tight with LeBron James because he’s (expletive) LeBron, (expletive) LeBron James, man,” Antetokounmpo said. “Coming into the league, I never saw myself as one of the best players in the league and being that LeBron type of player. That’s the truth. I could say, ‘Yes, I always thought I could be like LeBron James or better or whatever,’ but that’s not the truth.”
Some may laugh at the notion that Antetokounmpo is closing the gap on James, but the argument absolutely holds up statistically. Antetokounmpo, in his sixth season at age 24, is averaging 27.4 points, 12.6 rebounds, 6.0 assists and shooting 58.2 percent from the field in 32.9 minutes per game.
In James’ sixth season at age 24, he averaged 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists in 37.7 minutes per game and 48.9 percent from the field.
Of course, what makes James so great is his durability, but Antetokounmpo is absolutely right to say he’s entering the same stratosphere.
With their on-court similarities and growing off the court friendship, it seems like Antetokounmpo is well on his way to being the heir apparent to James.