It's now impossible to teach the history of the National Basketball Association without telling the story of Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2019-20 season.
To the surprise of very few, Giannis has been named MVP for a second-consecutive season, officially earning the honour less than two weeks after being named Defensive Player of the Year.
In doing so, Giannis has become just the third player in NBA history to win both awards in the same season, joining Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan.
MJ, Hakeem and now Giannis. Three names that need no further introduction or explanation.
Such achievements serve as reminders of just how quickly Antetokounmpo has ascended into superstardom.
It was just three years ago that a 22-year-old Giannis was named the league's Most Improved Player for making the leap to becoming an All-Star. And less than two years ago, I chronicled how he had made the leap into becoming an MVP candidate by his 24th birthday.
Now, in his seventh season, Giannis has already been named Most Improved Player, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player, not once, but twice. This is also your reminder that Giannis is somehow still just 25 years old and continuing to improve.
It also reinforces that he has entered rarefied air.
When Hakeem was named Defensive Player of the Year and MVP for the 1993-94 season, he was in his 10th season at 31 years old and still in pursuit of his first NBA title after losing in his lone NBA Finals appearance eight years prior. Olajuwon would cap off this historic year by leading the Houston Rockets to the 1994 NBA Finals, where they would win their first of two consecutive titles.
Like Giannis, Jordan was just 25 years old when he was named Defensive Player of the Year and MVP for the 1987-88 season, his fourth in the NBA. Up until that point, Jordan had yet to see any postseason success, losing in the first round in each of his first three seasons. The 1988 postseason saw Jordan experience the most success of his young career, getting out of the first round, only to lose to the Detroit Pistons in five games in the second round.
It would take another three years for MJ to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy for the first of six times in his legendary career.
On a surface level, Antetokounmpo finds himself in a similar position as Jordan following his age-25 season, still in pursuit of a title, although the nuances of their respective circumstances are quite different.
While Giannis' trophy case is quickly filling up, the Larry O'Brien Trophy is the one that has eluded him thus far.
Just one year after experiencing a heartbreaking let down in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals, an ankle injury sustained by Giannis in the 2020 Eastern Conference Semifinals put an end to Milwaukee's title aspirations as they were stunned by the Miami Heat.
After falling short of the NBA Finals yet again, questions begin to loom about the future, but none should surface about the MVP's ability to win a title down the line. Just think about the company he is now a part of.
Of the 13 players to be named MVP multiple times, only two failed to win a title in their career, while each of the five players that won both Defensive Player of the Year and MVP at some point in their career also won at least one NBA title.
As Giannis continues to grow and improve, the question shouldn't be "Can he ever win it all?" but rather "How many titles will he have by the time he retires?"
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