Giannis Antetokounmpo’s case for best Milwaukee Bucks player ever

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 22 (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 22 (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

The dust is starting to settle in that the Milwaukee Bucks stand as the reigning NBA champions after getting past the Phoenix Suns in this year’s NBA Finals.

Since eking past the Suns in their 105-98 victory in Game 6 earlier in the week, the Bucks have celebrated this momentous occasion, both after clinching the victory and their joyous championship parade held in Milwaukee Thursday afternoon. Even the singularly-focused Giannis Antetokounmpo has managed to bask in the glow of winning his first NBA title and making good on the promise he made to Bucks fans more than seven years ago.

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We know the Greek superstar is not one for celebrating on past accomplishments as he’s always looking forward to mastering the next hurdle, with this latest example being able to defend the Bucks’ title next season.

With all of that said, it’s certainly valid to wonder whether after Antetokounmpo’s latest and greatest accomplishment has cemented himself as the greatest Milwaukee Bucks player of all-time.

On its face, that certainly seems very hyperbolic and is a part of the general statements that are bandied out after a colossal achievement like Antetokounmpo and the Bucks just pulled off. However, when you look at the person that Antetokounmpo is chasing in Bucks history, that being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Greek Freak is fast closing in on the resume Abdul-Jabbar built over his six years in Milwaukee.

Has Giannis Antetokounmpo built his case for being the greatest Milwaukee Bucks player ever?

Of course, working in Antetokounmpo’s favor is the fact that he has already been in Milwaukee longer than Abdul-Jabbar had been, with eight seasons for Antetokounmpo compared to Abdul-Jabbar’s six years.

Both couldn’t have come to Milwaukee on far different paths as Abdul-Jabbar was instantly recognized as the franchise-changing player that he ended up for the Bucks while Antetokounmpo worked insatiably hard to carry the torch for the Bucks nearly a half-century later. Now both legends have won titles, which has come 50 years apart from one another, MVP and Finals MVP trophies and garnered multiple All-NBA, All-Star and All-Defensive selections.

In total, Abdul-Jabbar earned three MVP honors, along with winning Finals MVP during the Bucks’ 1971 title run, six All-Star selections, four All-NBA first team selections and one second team selection in 1970 and four All-Defensive selections. Along with being named Rookie of the Year in 1970 and being a member on that year’s All-Rookie first team, Abdul-Jabbar earned 21 different honors and prestigious accolades over his stint in Milwaukee from 1969 to 1975.

Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, has won two MVP awards, along with being named this year’s Finals MVP, has five All-Star selections, three All-NBA first team selections and two second team selections, four All-Defensive selections and a All-Rookie second team nod. What Antetokounmpo has that Abdul-Jabbar doesn’t is the 2019-20 Defensive Player of the Year award, with that being due to the fact that the award wasn’t established until the 1982-83 season, as well as being named Most Improved Player in 2016-17 and this year’s All-Star Game MVP.

In total, Antetokounmpo has garnered 21 different accolades and honors over his eight-year career, matching Abdul-Jabbar’s lofty resume.

Of course, boiling it down to the numerous awards and honors that both Antetokounmpo and Abdul-Jabbar have earned over their respective time in Milwaukee is only half the story. The ascent for both greats couldn’t have been far different from a team perspective and clearly mirrors how both entered the fold.

The context of the different eras is also very important to note too as Abdul-Jabbar entered the NBA and came to Milwaukee at a time where the league was fighting against the NBA and was well before the merger. Meanwhile, the NBA has never been stronger in terms of talent across the league over Antetokounmpo’s reign, in part due to the influx of international talent that Antetokounmpo himself encapsulates.

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While there are clear differences in the times and journeys both Abdul-Jabbar and Antetokounmpo have experienced while playing in Milwaukee, it’s clearly a two-horse race for best Bucks player ever. And the longer Antetokounmpo continues to reign in the Cream City, the gap will close on who stands at the top in Bucks history.