Saturday night in the NBA’s bubble, we were witnessed to one of the great budding rivalries in recent NBA history: Giannis Antetokounmpo vs. Luka Doncic — two of the brightest, most talented stars in the game.
The Mavs got the best of the Bucks in overtime on Saturday, 136-132, but the take away was greater than a win or a loss.
It was how much these two young superstars could affect the league for the next decade, perhaps decade and a half together.
Antetokounmpo the athletic freak with skills at his size never seen before in the NBA game. Doncic with a throwback game, that at 21 years old, far exceeds the talent of even Larry Bird. Yes I said it, Larry Bird.
Doncic was playing professional basketball overseas and winning Euroleague MVPs as a teenager. Antetokounmpo was grinding away in Greek gyms until at 17, a smart and talented scout for the Milwaukee Bucks, decided to bring him stateside.
Both of these young men have been playing against grown men since they were but children. Don’t think that gives you an advantage? Just take a look at the stats.
On a PER basis, Antetokounmpo is having the best statistical season the NBA has seen, over the last 50 plus years. The only rivals to Antetokounmpo‘s effectiveness are Wilt Chamberlain and, well, Wilt Chamberlain.
Doncic, on an up-and-coming Dallas Mavericks, is the youngest player in NBA history to lead the league in triple-doubles for a season. This season he has 12, 30-point, triple doubles to his credit — a ridiculous stat, only heightened by the fact that he is 21!
The NBA has always thrived on rivalries. In the beginning it was the Celtics and Bill Russell, versus Wilt and whatever team he was on.
In the 80s it was Magic Johnson and Bird revitalizing a fairly dormant game in many cities, and in millions of hearts and minds.
The 90s belonged to Jordan, no question about it.
In the 2000s, the Lakers three-peat opened up the decade, which saw the Spurs take over as a dominant Western Conference team, which then turned into the emergence of LeBron James as the most dominant player of a generation.
With James’ move to the Lakers, there hasn’t been a clear cut rivalry, East versus West. That’s what’s always thrived in the NBA. Rivalries, if they can be coastal, even better. With Doncic in Dallas and Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee, you have two stars, one in the east and one in the west, who could potentially square off for multiple championships.
That’s what made Bird-Magic so special. That’s what was special about Wilt and Russell. It was the vying for championships. If these two can continue what they’re doing now, watch out baby, this could be a perennial finals matchup!
This year the Mavericks probably won’t make the NBA Finals in a loaded west. The Bucks better make the Finals in an east they’ve dominated all season.
I do anticipate, however, in years to come, these two — Doncic and Antetokounmpo — meeting again and again for the right to wear the NBA crown.
In a year that has been, let’s just say, s*** so far, this kind of development is just what the doctor ordered!