Torch should be passed to Giannis

Time has come for Giannis Antetokounmpo to be now the face of the NBA.

Photo: Paul Sancya/AP

A week passed by since we celebrated Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks winning their first NBA championship since 1971.

After watching Antetokounmpo enjoying the moment, it may be time to ask ourselves whether or not it’s time to have the Greek Freak be the signature of the NBA. Not saying changing the Jerry West NBA logo. Signature of the NBA as in the face of the league.

This is not hyperbole. This is not just living in the moment here. This young man played like a rising star for the last few years. At 26 years old, this is his time now since he is in his prime. He could be on pace to win more than one championship after watching his trajectory.

LeBron James is in the twilight of his career at 36 years old. Kevin Durant still has some good years left in him at 32 years old, but he may never be the player he was at his peak. Luka Doncic must win a playoff series and play defense before we can anoint him. Zion Williamson and Ja Morant displayed the chops they have to play in the NBA, but they are way too young to be crowned.

Yes, it makes sense to crown Antetokounmpo as the new king.

The Greek Freak showed the worth of greatness in the NBA Finals. He averaged 35 points per game. He scored 42 and 41 in Games 2 and 3. He finished the Finals by scoring 50 points in the Bucks’ 105-98 championship clincher victory over the Phoenix Suns.

He amazed everyone in the sense he injured his left knee during the NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks. He landed awkwardly and went down in a heap after contesting a dunk on Clint Capela. He did not even play in the rest of the series.

Questions persisted about him playing in the Finals. I figured he would play in the middle of the Finals. The Bucks played it close to the vest until they finally announced he would play Game 1 of the NBA Finals hours before it started. Even if he played, how effective can he be? He answered that question well by scoring 20 points in Game 1 in a feel-out game and then responded with a 42-point performance in Game 2. From there, the Suns had no answers for him.

Even when they formed a wall on Antetokounmpo, the Bucks star passed the ball well to Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, who scored often.

Antetokounmpo also made Deandre Ayton a non-factor altogether on offense for the entire NBA Finals.

He did everything right, which is why he earned the NBA Finals MVP.

Here’s what stood out about him during the NBA Finals: He had fun playing in it. He enjoyed the adulation and attention that came with it. His approach rubbed off well on the rest of his teammates, and the Bucks embraced his leadership during the Finals. It wasn’t just his performance that helped the Bucks win the championship, but it was the way he went about his job.

Even when he had his rough moments against the Nets in the second round, he didn’t let his struggles get to him. He kept playing through it and performed well.

NBA Finals can be a burden or joy for players. For James and Durant, it’s more of a burden since they have a legacy that they have to live up to. James needs to match Michael Jordan for championships, and Durant must show that he can win a championship on his own.

Antetokounmpo proved he can win on his own rather than rely on forming a super team like James and Durant. He made sure no one forgot about it by mentioning it during the Bucks championship ceremony. He embraced the pressure of trying to be a champion.

He checks all the boxes on why he should be the flagship player of the NBA. He is likeable, which is refreshing because most NBA players behave like spoiled divas that act entitled, and we certainly have three of them in our backyard in Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden. He is a winner. He is a champion. He stayed in Milwaukee to be a champion rather than play for greener pastures.

What’s really not to like about him?

If the timing is not right to crown him, when will it be?

There’s no time like the present. It’s time.

 

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