Heir to the NBA throne

Justin Prakaiphetkul, Asst. Sports editor

Every decade, a new NBA superstar comes forward and replaces the longtime alpha dog as the new best player in the world.

Whether it was Michael Jordan dethroning Magic and Larry in the 1990s or LeBron James surpassing Kobe in the 2010s, a new face is guaranteed to take the league by storm before eventually hitting his prime and taking his rightful place as the NBA’s poster boy. With LeBron nearing his mid thirties, I see no better candidate to dethrone the King than the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo (pronounced Yonnis Antay-tu-koompo).

It can be argued that Antetokounmpo is the most physically gifted player in NBA history. Antetokounmpo’s 7 feet 3 inches wingspan and 6 feet 11 inches, 222-pound frame, make him unguardable. Players literally bounce off Antetokounmpo when he drives into the paint, similarly to how defenders are pushed aside when LeBron steamrolls to the hoop.

Additionally, Antetokounmpo can play all five positions, making him the most versatile player in the modern NBA. He has the handles of a guard, the elite agility and cutting ability of a forward and the height to play center, depending on the opponent.

Last season, Antetokounmpo became the first player in NBA history to finish in the top 20 in the five major statistical categories, averaging 22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.9 blocks per game. The scary part about this is that the Greek Freak is only 22 years old, which means he is years away from reaching his seemingly limitless prime.

This season, Antetokounmpo has recorded video game numbers, producing averages of 31.0 points, 9.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.4 blocks while shooting 58.3 percent from the field. At times, it seems as though Antetokounmpo is simply cruising his way through the competition.

If Antetokounmpo is able to maintain this level of production and the Bucks finish as a top five seed, he should have the MVP trophy locked up, and he may even be the first player in NBA history to rack up back-to-back Most Improved Player awards.

Although players such as Kevin Durant, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Anthony Davis certainly have their capability to be LeBron’s successor, they also have their drawbacks.

Meanwhile, the only weakness in Antetokounmpo’s game is his lack of a reliable jumpshot. However, with each passing year, Antetokounmpo continues to improve his field goal percentage. If he can keep up his current progression, he should be able to shoot jumpers consistently in no time.

Currently, I cannot see a ceiling for his game. Unlike most players, there is no perfect comparison for this freak of nature.  When I watch Antetokounmpo, I see flashes of Magic’s ability to use his height to his advantage, LeBron’s speed and court vision and Kobe’s mentality.

There has never been a physical enigma like Antetokounmpo in all of basketball history. We, as fans, should be grateful that we are witnessing greatness unfold right before our eyes. The only thing that I can say with surefire confidence about Antetokounmpo is that he will one day be the best player in the NBA.