The leadup to Friday’s game between the Cavaliers and the Bucks rightly centered around the matchup at forward between LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Though James has held the championship belt for “greatest basketball player alive” for some time, basic biology dictates that he will eventually have to cede that crown.
Giannis, at the tender age of 22 coming off a season in which he averaged 22.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.9 blocks, and 1.6 steals, is more than a worthy candidate to one day take up the mantle.
In the Cavaliers 116-97 win against the Bucks, both players showed out. Giannis dropped 34 points, eight assists and eight rebounds. LeBron chipped in 24 points, eight assists and five rebounds.
One play represented the two stars clash as Antetokounmpo tried to lead the Bucks back into the game on the fast break.
Giannis has made a career of yamming on many a defender, and his Inspector Gadget-length arms allows him to attack the rim at angles that are otherwise inconceivable.
LeBron, for his part, has made stopping such transition rim barrages his specialty to the point that the chase down block is as synonymous with his game as the one-legged fadeaway is to Dirk Nowitzki’s.
In this battle, LeBron emerged the victor, timing up Giannis’ approach perfectly and using Dwyane Wade’s presence as leverage to force Antetokounmpo to attempt an angle that he could get to. Next time, Giannis may be the victor.
Until then, LeBron will have the upper hand as he maintains his crown as the greatest player in the league. But Giannis is coming. We’ll see how LeBron potentially handles being on the other end of the exchange in the future.