As the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns face off on the league’s biggest stage, Chris Paul and Giannis Antetokounmpo will hope to achieve basketball immortality by being crowned the champion for the first time in their career.
Chris Paul and the Suns are favored to win the upcoming NBA Finals with or without Giannis Antetokounmpo playing for the Bucks. Phoenix have the clear advantage in star power if Antetotkounmpo misses games or is less than 100 per cent. But if Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals was any indication, the Milwaukee Bucks could be more than just Antetokounmpo.
Just recently, Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said that Giannis Antetokounmpo is 'day-to-day' after he hyperextended his knee in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The fact that there was no structural damage to his knee suggests the Greek Freak could be back on the court any time soon. We just don’t know when that is going to be, though.
Meanwhile, Chris Paul is as healthy as he has ever been this deep into his longest postseason run. After injuries derailed his team’s chances of advancing in the playoffs a few times in his career, Paul now sits on the precipice of his first-ever title.
Between Chris Paul and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is the more deserving player to win his first championship ring at the other's expense? Let's analyze the cases for both players.
Why Giannis Antetokounmpo deserves to win the 2021 NBA title
For the past three seasons, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks have been knocking on the door of the Finals, only to be thwarted the first two times. But the third time proved to be the charm, and they are now four wins away from the ultimate prize.
At 26 and in his eighth season in the league, Giannis Antetokounmpo is at the prime of his career. At such a young age, he has already won the highest individual honor the NBA has to offer, doing so twice. Antetokounmpo is a two-time MVP and bagged this season’s All-Star MVP award as well. If he plays and wins a championship along with the Finals MVP, it would cap off the best three seasons of his young career.
He has already won the Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year awards while being a five-time All-Star and a five-time All-NBA team selection as well.
But Giannis Antetokounmpo has endured his fair share of trials just to get to where he is now with the Bucks.
After the Milwaukee Bucks won the best record in the league two seasons in a row, they failed to reach the Finals each time. The 6' 11' forward received a ton of criticism after his failures in the last two playoffs, as he couldn’t lead his team to the Promised Land.
In this postseason alone, many questioned Giannis Antetokounmpo's defensive abilities after the Brooklyn Nets torched the Bucks repeatedly in the second round of the playoffs.
They also doubted his ability to perform in crunch time due to his free-throw shooting woes. These are just a few of the many criticisms Giannis Antetokounmpo has had to face in this playoffs. Nevertheless, he hasn’t let that affect him and has aggressively taken on challenges in front of him.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has put in the work both on and off the court to achieve all the accolades attached to his name. A championship would be the feather on his cap.
Why Chris Paul deserves to win the 2021 NBA title
The 2021 NBA Finals represents Chris Paul’s first, and possibly only chance, to earn a maiden championship. To this point, the 11-time All-Star has achieved almost everything humanly possible on the basketball court except winning the ultimate team prize - the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
During his illustrious career, Chris Paul has been the Rookie of the Year, All-Star MVP, a four-time assists leader, six-time steals champion, nine-time All-Defensive Team member and a ten-time All-NBA team selection.
Had it not been for his fitness issues, Chris Paul would probably have reached the Finals much earlier. Virtually no one has questioned his talent, but Paul’s fitness always seemed to get in the way of his success.
Chris Paul’s chances of advancing deep into the postseason were almost derailed once again this year due to a freak injury he suffered in the first game of the first-round of the 2021 playoffs.
It looked as though the Wake Forest product was going to fail his team again by being unavailable or not being 100 per cent. But his shoulder healed in time, and the Phoenix Suns are now within touching distance of their first title.
This is Chris Paul’s 16th season, and he’s playing for his fifth NBA team, his first with the Phoenix Suns. As has already been discussed in basketball circles previously, every time he joins a team, Paul improves that team’s record and helps them instantly become a playoff contender, and this year has been no different.
Chris Paul is a winner wherever he goes, but he has never been the ultimate winner. This man deserves to win a title before he rides off into the sunset, though.
While Giannis Antetokounmpo has received his fair share of criticism and hardships compared to Chris Paul, the Bucks star has had a fairly comfortable career. On the contrary, the 2021 NBA Finals represents Paul’s best opportunity to win a championship, and the 36-year-old wants nothing more than to get a taste of the championship champagne before his career is over.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is ten years younger than Paul and has multiple opportunities to win a title before he hangs up his sneakers for good. Both deserve to win the title, but in terms of who deserves it more, the answer would be Chris Paul.
Also Read: 1993 NBA Finals: What happened when the Phoenix Suns last made it to the ultimate stage of the league?