Sports

Giannis is the Shaq of this era

When it comes to sheer physical domination, Giannis is in rare company.

When it comes to sheer physical domination, Giannis is in rare company.
Image: Getty Images

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the most physically dominant player we’ve seen since Shaquille O’Neal.

Last night in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, Giannis was at his absolute best. He dominated the paint for the Bucks and put up 41 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 assists on nearly 61 percent shooting from the field.

It’s the second straight game where Giannis gave Phoenix 40 points and 10 rebounds, just a few days removed from missing the end of the Eastern Conference Finals with a hyperextended knee.

Giannis is the first man to drop back-to-back 40-point, 10-rebound games in the Finals since Shaq did it in 2000.

We’ve never seen anyone exactly like Giannis. The way he can physically dominate a game with his strength, length, and athleticism puts him in categories with guys like Wilt Chamberlain and Shaq. Giannis is the most physically imposing player the NBA has seen since O’Neal.

Shaq gave up the Superman title to Giannis, with the Hall of Famer even claiming the Greek Freak was “better” than himself.

In a league more predicated than ever on shooting and finesse, Giannis is taking on the role Shaq had in his prime. Since he can handle the ball and only needs three strides to get to the basket from halfcourt, the only way to stop him from dunking on your head is to foul him and pray he misses at the free-throw line after he takes an hour and a half to shoot.

And even that hasn’t stopped him from averaging 34.3 points per game, 14 rebounds, and nearly 5 assists in these Finals. Many will argue that LeBron James deserves consideration for being physically imposing — and he is — but the fact of the matter is Giannis is taller, stronger, and has a longer wingspan than James. Giannis also can’t shoot the same way James can, which significantly changes the way both players compete.

Giannis will continue to attack the goal because he doesn’t have another option, which puts the defense in panic mode every possession. You know what’s coming from Giannis nearly every offensive opportunity, and you have to mentally and physically prepare yourself for that level of punishment.

James, on the other hand, is much more reliant on his jumper. And while he is the better player overall, the way teams have to prepare for James is completely different than planning against Giannis — because he’s always going to play around the rim and force you to play at a disadvantage. Just look at these stats.

It’s clear this man is just built differently, and it poses a unique problem for coaches and players alike.

His greatness is on an all-time level, and where he should rank among the best of the best, can be debated another day. But what we know now is this: The man deserves his credit for being one of the most physically dominant forces the league has ever seen.

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