Could Giannis Antetokounmpo enter the conversation of the greatest athlete of all-time?

Giannis Antetokounmpo has a 7-foot-3inch wingspan
Giannis Antetokounmpo has a 7-foot-3inch wingspan
Michael Tillery

Giannis Antetokounmpo is fast becoming one of the most decorated athletes currently in sports. The two-time MVP winner was named NBA Finals MVP after his Milwaukee Bucks defeated Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns in six games last season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was also the MVP of the NBA All-Star Game in the same year, and his meteoric rise in the NBA was noted by him winning the Most Improved Player in 2016-17.

The 2019-20 NBA Defensive Player of the Year has made four All-Defensive teams, has been All-NBA five times, placed on the 2013-14 All Rookie team and is a five-time NBA All-Star and a member of the 75th NBA Anniversary team.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is in his ninth year, and if the accolades continue to come, the conversation will shift and his name will transcend the sport in which he stars. At 6 feet, 11 inches tall, Giannis runs like the deer on his Milwaukee chest and flies through the air with similar grace.

His dunks are as ferocious as any to palm a basketball, and the ease of how he gets to the rim from halfcourt is something to behold at eye level.

Augmented by a 7-foot-3 wingspan, there was once a mindful question asked of how his physical exploits were possible. Yet after seeing Giannis rough over rims from sea to sea for almost a decade, that doubt no longer exists.

Will Antetokounmpo enter the discussion as one of the greatest athletes ever?

Giannis: 40 PTS, 12 REB, 9 ASTLaMelo: 36 PTS, 9 AST, 8 3PM@Giannis_An34 & @MELOD1P had an epic showdown in Milwaukee 🔥

Giannis Antetokounmpo the athlete

When special athletes enter the sports sphere, fans can't get enough. They leave fans speechless, uncommon to the norm, and in witnessing the unimaginable, comparisons to significant athletes of the past begin to form.

Enter Giannis Antetokounmpo. The limits of what he can do on the NBA floor are as long as his name, and when he gets the ball at the top of the key, count how many steps it takes him to rock the rim.

To those familiar with the famed athletic art of the late great Ernie Barnes, are the caricatures common to Barnes' paintings close to the likeliness of Giannis and his entire, almost cartoonish physical span?

The dominant way Antetokounmpo declares that if the opposition does not stop him, he will add another gym's rim to his collection. The NBA is evolving so much physically that we now have centers with the common skill of bringing up the ball, directing the team and rocking the rim all in the same sequence.

Antetokounmpo is the personification of that evolution, and that he is winning everything possible leaves almost no doubt of the possibility of this conversation when all is said and done.

If Antetokounmpo wasn't a basketball player, imagine him in the Olympics representing his country in the high jump. The fluidity of his athleticism would translate into astonishing performances, and if he set his mind on becoming an Olympic high jumper when he was young, the possibilities of the records he may have set would be obvious.

Whatever his 40 time is, the top speed he's capable of most likely couldn't be measured in the 92 feet of a basketball court because of pace and game situation, yet there can't be a more daunting visual of Antetokounmpo coming downhill with bad intentions off the break.

Giannis the NFL quarterback

As the athleticism of sports evolves, an athlete never before seen will one day play NFL quarterback. It's inevitable. Cam Newton was essentially a big guard at the position; Lamar Jackson resembles what many point guards look like physically in the NBA.

Small forwards, power forwards and centers are next to become signal-callers. All it takes is a muse before the inspiration. Newton could be a prototype for what future NFL quarterbacks will look like as their physical rigors increase with the advent of multifaceted talent as field generals. As the position continues to evolve, so will the physical makeup of NFL defenses.

What then will be the physical quarterback shift to counteract?

There's a kid somewhere right now that saw what Newton did in the NFL at his peak with real dreams of emulating the former MVP who is growing faster and longer than his peers. If he sticks to his dream despite the world telling him he's the next NBA star, the NFL will have something new on its hands.

A 6-8 freshman in high school becomes the 6-11 freshman phenom at some Power 5 college lucky to have him. Armed with a cannon yet running like the wind, the assault on NFL records beckons for this once-in-a-generation quarterback.


Looking over the defense as the pocket closes, the likeness of an Antetokounmpo launches a 50-yard bomb to a receiver not far off his physical attributes for a touchdown. On the next drive, this wunderkind QB takes off on a naked bootleg down the left sideline for the improbable overtime score that propels his team into the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.

In the process, hypothetically of course, the likeness of an Antetokounmpo became the first NFL QB to throw for five-thousand yards and run for another one thousand.

Don't dismiss it

A fireballing young baseball pitcher growing like a dream weed is rising in the under 13 ranks and already 6-2. He's a four-sport star with an 85 mph heater that dances something wonderful for scouts. Growing 6 inches over the summer, the likeness of Antetokounmpo is known for his perfect games, no-hitters and average of 15 strikeouts per start.

His father hypothetically was a Hall of Fame world champion who won 250 games in 20 years, so despite the desire to play in both the NFL and the NBA, he decides to follow in his celebrity father's footsteps and electrify MLB.

Randy Johnson would have nothing on him, and all it would take for an athlete resembling Antetokounmpo to impact baseball is motivation and desire.

Ok Tim Hardaway is 6'6"Assuming his waist is ~62.5% of his total height that means his waist is ~48 inches off groundWhile jumping over THJ, Giannis' feet were at his waistThe highest recorded vertical leap in NBA history is Wilt Chamberlain 48 inchesGiannis did it in a game

What not Giannis?

There is nothing on the basketball court Antetokounmpo can't do. In a sport that is seen as arguably the most athletic, he's one of the most athletic.

If he trained as a young lad in the pool, one could see him as an Olympic swimmer breaking Michael Phelps' world records, or the goalie for Liverpool in the Premier League, stopping shots like his name was Édouard Mendy of Chelsea F.C.

Maybe a 6-11, hungry-like-Antetokounmpo hurdler will shoot like a lightning bolt through the annals of track and field.

He could play any number of positions on the football field, from middle linebacker to edge rusher, go-route receiver or tight end damaging the middle of the field to much success.

Who are the top athletes of all time?

At the turn of the century, many media outlets drew up lists of the GOAT athletes of the past 100 years. Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Bo Jackson, Bill Russell, Deion Sanders, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Jim Thorpe, Babe Ruth, Jim Brown and a few others are high in consideration.

In the NBA, Michael Jordan and Bill Russell were so dominant athletically for their teams that it would be blasphemy to exclude them, and with the mythical numbers Wilt Chamberlain put up at 7-1, his exclusion would have been looked at as the same, yet as Antetokounmpo continues to be decorated, how can he not be considered, given what he can do physically?

I had a similar conversation with LeBron James in 2009. James will also be in the discussion of the greatest athletes of all time, and besides having different body types, James and Antetokounmpo will both be seen in a different light historically regarding professional athlete physicality.

Take Antetokounmpo off the basketball court and try to visualize how his athleticism translates to other sports.

At 6-11, what kind of boxer would Antetokounmpo make? He surely wouldn't lack passion and commitment, and his reach on the jab would be ridiculous.

Would an Antetokounmpo strike zone in the batter's box be exploited so much that his length would be a decided weakness, or would his batspeed be quick enough to extend to spots around the plate one his size would normally have problems putting the bat on the ball?

Not just at quarterback, could you envision Antetokounmpo defending the middle of the field as a strong safety or focused on sideline containment as a cornerback locking off his side of the field?

Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson had elite speed, and that speed (and Bo's strength) would be the difference regarding Antetokounmpo in any conversation with the NFL/MLB hybrids. Sanders closed on receivers with absurd speed; Jackson ran around, past and over defenders. Both had athleticism surpassing the NFL average.

If having the choice to pick any athlete ever to perform an athletic feat, how far would one get before Antetokounmpo is picked?

Remember when Antetokounmpo was 20, and he showed off a 40-inch vertical jump that was 26 inches higher than a regulation NBA rim? Or how about the time Giannis covered 72 feet in two dribbles?


His athleticism is a representation that would carry him over in practically any sport, and the NBA realizes such about a player who will be seen as potentially the NBA's best international star to play the game.

The five-year, $228-million dollar Supermax contract shows he not only has value to the NBA, but also to the corporation he's becoming himself. Antetokounmpo will be one of the athletes defining the NBA of this generation. He still has so much yet to accomplish, and with so many years potentially left in his career, how will Antetokounmpo be viewed athletically?

With averages of 27 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists this season, Antetokounmpo could garner his third MVP trophy in eight years. The success of the wonder from Greece will continue to impact the NBA as Antetokounmpo physically develops still, yet as he matures to the edges of his prime, there may be a day when few athletes will be compared to him athletically across time.

Also Read: How many rings does Bill Russell have?

live poll LIVE POLL

Q. Will Giannis Antetokounmpo be in the conversation as the greatest athlete of all time?

The thought is absurd.

Of course he will!

43 votes so far

Edited by Joseph Schiefelbein


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