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Milwaukee Bucks

Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry stands tall as biggest roadblock to Giannis Antetokounmpo

Only two players in NBA history have won multiple MVP awards by the age of 25: LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is well on his way to becoming the third.

Basketball-Reference's MVP tracker has the Greek Freak with a 58.5% chance of winning the award. Vegas has Giannis at -455 odds. The next closest? Luka Doncic at +800 and LeBron James at +900.

MORE: Giannis is MVP favourite but is he the best player in today's game?

Antetokounmpo is averaging career-highs in points (30.0) and rebounds (13.5) despite playing just 30.9 minutes per game. His Player Efficiency Rating of 32.3 would be the best in NBA history topping Wilt Chamberlain's 31.8 PER from the 1962-63 season when Wilt averaged a tidy 44.8 points and 24.3 rebounds per game.

The Greek Freak has been amazing this season and deserves all the praise he's gotten to this point. But the ultimate prize, the one that would vault him into another stratosphere, awaits in June. For this season to truly stand among the greatest ever would require leading the Bucks to their first championship since 1971.

At times it appears as if no roadblock exists strong enough to stand in the way of Milwaukee's 25-year-old superstar.

At times it appears as if the only thing stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo is Giannis Antetokounmpo himself.

Except that things aren't always as they appear.

On Tuesday, the Bucks and Antetokounmpo will face the Toronto Raptors, the team that ended their championship hopes a season ago. More importantly, the MVP frontrunner will once again do battle with one of the biggest foes of his entire career: Kyle Lowry.

Here's the thing... Kyle Lowry has owned Giannis Antetokounmpo. Yes, you read that correctly. Lowry owns Giannis.

It bends the mind a bit to think about the dynamic between two players who play different positions, who never guard each other and who aren't categorically thrust into the same conversations day-in, day-out. It's not natural in the same way that we talk about LeBron James vs Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry vs James Harden or even Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid.

And yet there's not another NBA player Antetokounmpo has played more NBA games against than Lowry and the results speak for themselves. When it comes down to what's most important - namely, winning - all signs point to Lowry as the MVP's kryptonite.

MORE: What is the Toronto Raptors playoff 'magic number'?

In 31 games - including both the regular season and playoffs - Antetokounmpo has a .290 winning percentage against Lowry. Among the players he's faced the most, that's by far his worst mark.

Giannis Antetokounmpo Opponents
Opponent Games Wins Losses Win%
Kyle Lowry 31 9 22 29%
Andre Drummond 30 20 10 67%
Al Horford 29 16 13 55%
Serge Ibaka 29 12 17 41%
Marcus Morris 29 15 14 52%

*includes playoffs

Before you say 'well a lot of that losing happened before Giannis became Giannis' think again. Antetokounmpo became an All-Star in the 2016-17 season. Since that year he's played Toronto 23 times - again including the playoffs - and holds a 9-14 record in those contests.

In the grand scheme of things - especially for two teams with bigger goals than a win in the middle of February - Tuesday's game shouldn't mean much.

However, factoring in that Lowry has now stood in the way of not one, but two Antetokounmpo postseason runs and that the path that the Greek Freak will need to take to the title this season might run through Lowry yet again, there's a case to be made that maybe, just maybe, Tuesday's game means far more than a run-of-the-mill meeting in late February.

The bottom line is this: every truly great player has to one day overcome someone standing in their way. For Michael Jordan, it was Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumas. For LeBron James, it was Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo.

Many don't know it but it's Kyle Lowry that has stood in Giannis Antetokounmpo's way of achieving his ultimate goal - winning an NBA championship.

If history is any indication, the Greek Freak has his work cut out for himself.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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