Gilbert Arenas’ Giannis narrative refuses to give him proper credit as the best basketball player on the planet currently. Instead, he has attempted to downplay his current status by nitpicking. Diminishing the greatness of a prime candidate as the next face of the league is terrible for the sport.
Gilbert Arenas doesn’t understand
In an episode of the No Chill Podcast, Gilbert Arenas said Giannis was “not even close” to being the best player in the NBA. He laughed at the thought that anyone would put Giannis in that conversation. He then took it a step further, saying that the 2x MVP “doesn’t understand basketball” or “doesn’t understand how to be great.”�(via No Chill Podcast)
By Gilbert Arenas’ logic, it is clear you can be great at playing basketball but “not understand” it. Unfortunately, Gilbert’s comments lack understanding of how greatness is genuinely defined. The individual skillset of a player is not what defines their NBA greatness. NBA players play a team sport with the objective being impacting team success. They are responsible for producing consistently to help their team win.
Giannis’ tremendous value
Giannis Antetonkounmpo, by numerous metrics, has been one of the most productive basketball players. He is one of three players in the history of the NBA to win an MVP and DPOY. In addition, he has averaged over 25 PPG and over 10 RPG for five straight years! Furthermore, he has made five straight All-Defensive teams, including three consecutive 1st-team selections.
Exaggerating Giannis’ flaws
The most extensive counter to Giannis’s statistical and accolades-based dominance is his “lack of skill.” Like many who make this point, Gilbert significantly exaggerates Antetokounmpo’s flaws. In an Instagram post defending his take, Arenas said Giannis “hasn’t added a new skill to his game since entering the league.” He listed skills such as 3PT, mid-range, FT, and back-to-the-basket post-ups.
Ironically, Giannis has gotten better in all of those areas. You could look at the raw 3PT% and say his percentage has only marginally increased. However, that is an improvement when you account for the volume increase (shooting nearly double the amount of 3’s per game over the past three seasons vs. his career averages). In addition, he is far more confident in his jump shot which is more evident in his mid-range shooting. Giannis shot 42% from 10-16 FT and 43% from 16 FT to the 3PT line this past season. That is a 5% and 7% increase from his career averages, respectively! (via basketball reference)
Greatness not skills challenge
As a free throw shooter, Giannis shot a career-high in attempts and at 72% was slightly above his career average. Giannis had a 54.4 EFG% last season as a post player, slightly higher than LeBron James on marginally more significant volume (via nba.com). Giannis isn’t the best shooter but a nearly 7-footer that can anchor a defense, handle the ball on the perimeter, and generate offense for himself and others while being the most dominant inside scorer is someone who clearly has “skills.”
Nobody is pretending Giannis would compare to the Kyrie, Curry, and KD caliber player in a purely individual offensive skill-based comparison. However, that isn’t an accurate depiction of what basketball is. Every NBA player has their strengths; I’m not going to fault someone playing to theirs, especially if it yields excellent results.
Giannis already All-time great
Giannis has achieved the mission NBA GMs draft a star player to accomplish, to lead their team to a championship. He was undeniably the best player on the Bucks’ championship team. Kyrie Irving has been coined by many as the most skilled player ever. However, many of those people have also admitted that they are unsure that Kyrie can lead a team to a championship. In an NBA setting, individual skill is behind the production, impact on team success and accomplishments when evaluating their status as NBA players.
Arenas diminishing the NBA’s credibility
For Gilbert Arenas to act like a player can accomplish so much and be dominant without understanding the sport is disrespectful to people like him who play this game professionally. Gilbert understood the game and wasn’t even close to the player Giannis is today. Physical tools do matter to make it to that level. Giannis had to grow and mold himself into that body (genetics helped too). Most professional athletes are rare genetic or athletic anomalies. We can play the Giannis wouldn’t be doing this at 6’5 game but put everyone in the league at 5 feet tall, and how many NBA players would we have?
Appreciate the generational talent
Basketball fans and players should appreciate how great of hands we are in with Giannis Antetokounmpo being at the forefront of the next era. He should be a great example in a team sport of how the best player doesn’t mean the most individually skilled.