I can’t remember when the “best player in the world” conversation started, but whenever it was, it hasn’t stopped. Nobody ever gets tired of it. Especially right now, when there are so many players with legitimate claims to the throne. Everyone’s criteria is different. It perhaps speaks to skill preference more than anything.
If you polled 10 people at the moment and asked them who the best basketball player in the world is, you might get upwards of six or seven different answers. Giannis Antetokounmpo. Nikola Jokic. Stephen Curry. Kevin Durant. Joel Embiid. Luka Doncic. Perhaps Kawhi Leonard is primed for a return to the conversation. Am I forgetting anyone?
Oh, right. LeBron James.
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Many people feel that LeBron, though still an All-NBA-level performer, has dropped from the uppermost tier. Giannis, who might get more votes than any other player in that informal poll, is not one of those people. In fact, Giannis believes that LeBron, who was the unanimous best player in the world for probably a decade, remains in a league of his own at 37 years old.
“It’s interesting to me how LeBron is still [in] one of the best shapes [of] his life and being the best player in the world and still being in year 18,” Giannis told Marca Basket. “Like, that’s really interesting. I want to know how he does that. He’s been consistent for 18 years. He’s always there. He’s always showing up. That’s unbelievable.
“He obviously gets credit, but I think we’ve got to give him more credit. Doing it for 18 years guys, that’s hard. And hopefully, hopefully I can be there. Hopefully, I can do this for 18 years, 20 years. That’s the goal.”
You heard it. Best player in the world. You can disagree with Giannis, but it’s not crazy. Last season, LeBron averaged over 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists on 62 percent true shooting, and if you’re going to attribute that all to stat hunting, take that nonsense somewhere else. No, he’s not the player he once was. He can’t get any shot he wants at any time he wants, and his defense hasn’t been elite for a while.
But LeBron’s own bar isn’t the point. If you had to win one playoff series and you gave LeBron an adequate supporting cast, there’s still a case to be made that he can still play basketball, at least for stretches, at a higher level than anyone else. Personally, I wouldn’t make that case. But like I said, it’s not crazy.