The Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Detroit Pistons’ Isiah Thomas are both former NBA stars who have managed to transition their skills into coaching. If they were to compare, it would be interesting to see how each player fares in today’s game—and if any similarities exist at all.
The “hamstring extension” is a term used to describe the stretching of a muscle. It can also be used to describe when an athlete pulls a hamstring, which is what might have happened to Isiah Thomas in his latest Giannis Antetokounmpo comparison.
For Turner Sports, Isiah Thomas introduced a new series called Run It Back, and his first part was a doozy. He brought up Milwaukee Bucks sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo, almost tying himself up with the analogy. Thomas compared the two-time NBA MVP and reigning NBA Finals MVP to a great who shone briefly in the 1980s.
Antetokounmpo is a one-of-a-kind player, with an almost unfathomable combination of size, speed, ball handling, and playmaking ability. He’s a 6-foot-11, 242-pound unicorn who has experience playing small forward, shooting guard, and point guard in his first three seasons before settling down as a playmaking power forward.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has an unique combination of skills.
Even if there aren’t many players that can compare to Giannis Antetokounmpo, Isiah Thomas gave it his all. | FilmMagic/Isaiah Trickey | Getty Images/John Fisher
Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will be 27 in early December, is in his sixth NBA season. As crazy as it seems, he may not have reached his ceiling yet. He’s one of the best finishers in the NBA, completing 83.7 percent of his restricted-area shots despite every defense he encountered falling on him last season.
With his handles, quickness, and physical power, Antetokounmpo manages to dominate in the current NBA while never developing a reliable 3-point shooting.
What about the unusual skill set? In their NBA careers, four players have averaged at least 21 points, nine rebounds, and four assists. Elgin Baylor, Larry Bird, and Wilt Chamberlain are three all-time greats. Antetokounmpo, who deservedly earned a position on the NBA 75 team, is the fourth.
These averages are 28.0 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 5.5 assists over the previous four seasons. Over a four-year period, only Wilt Chamberlain had greater stats.
It’s OK if a player defies comparison at times. Isiah Thomas, on the other hand, was undeterred.
Isiah Thomas compares Giannis Antetokounmpo to Ralph Sampson, an NCAA great.
Isiah Thomas used his inaugural Run It Back segment to compare Giannis Antetokounmpo to his era. Ralph Sampson, a former Houston Rockets standout, was one of his examples.
While at the University of Virginia, Sampson was a legend as a three-time National Player of the Year who led the Cavaliers to their first Final Four appearance in 1981.
Sampson was a one-of-a-kind character in his day. He was a 7-foot-4 big who could handle the ball, run the floor, and shoot from the midrange.
He was drafted first overall in 1983 and went on to win Rookie of the Year accolades before making an unprecedented position swap in his second season. When the Rockets selected Hakeem Olajuwon with the No. 1 selection again, Sampson switched to power forward and established the first Twin Towers.
What kind of performer was he? In 1984–85, he was good enough to win All-NBA honors. However, a knee injury in his fourth season put an end to his meteoric rise to fame. Sampson returned for another five seasons following the injury, but his efficiency slowly declined, and towards the conclusion of his career, he was a seldom utilized reserve.
In a very limited sense, Thomas is correct: Antetokounmpo and Sampson were unusual mixes of size and athletic talent. Giannis Antetokounmpo, on the other hand, has maintained his career acceleration curve, whilst Sampson’s has been slowed by injuries.
There’s one more significant distinction to consider.
Isiah Thomas neglected something about Sampson and Antetokounmpo’s careers.
Sampson was meant to be a star when he arrived in Charlottesville for his freshman year at Virginia. He had big aspirations as a high school All-American. It wasn’t a question of if, but when, Sampson would be the first pick in the NBA draft. Teams offered Sampson huge sums of money to persuade him to leave school early, but he remained for four years.
When compared to Giannis Antetokounmpo, there is a huge difference. When he got eligible for the draft, the media couldn’t even figure out how to spell his name properly. Since his arrival in the NBA, we’ve been used to his spelling. However, there were also Adetokoubo, Antetokoubo, and other names.
Who will be the next big thing? Even the name of the individual was a point of contention among the draft gurus.
He emerged from Greece’s second division as an athletic oddity who had never competed at the highest level. Former general manager John Hammond made the finest choice of his career when the Milwaukee Bucks gambled at No. 15 overall.
It wasn’t because he was meant to become famous that he became famous. Instead, Antetokounmpo sprang out of nowhere and exceeded expectations only a few could have predicted.
It’s simple to look back nine years at Antetokounmpo’s career and see everything he’s accomplished. Giannis Antetokounmpo, on the other hand, was not the next great thing when he entered the NBA, unlike Sampson. It’s difficult to be all of those things when the people tasked with judging you don’t know what to label you.
Basketball Reference and Stathead provided the statistics.
Injuries have derailled the Milwaukee Bucks hype train, but one player in particular stands out. Giannis Antetokounpo Is pleading for a comeback: ‘Please return.’
- isaiah thomas team