Bill Simmons, basketball historian, is famous for making lists. His latest at The Ringer names the 16 true unicorns in NBA history — i.e., players whose like we’ll never see again.
Not on the list: Michael Jordan (Simmons writes: “Kobe’s relatively creepy Jordan impersonation opened the door for another MJ someday”). Also not on the list: LeBron James (“I could image another 6-foot-8 super-athlete like LeBron who never gets tired and plays basketball like he’s the queen on a chessboard.”)
The only active players on the list are superstars Kevin Durant (“McAdoo crossed with Gervin crossed with Spider-Man crossed with Plastic Man with 25-foot range???”) and Russell Westbrook (“part point guard, part striker, part running back, part Terminator”), along with the relatively unknown Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Giannis is a 22-year-old of Nigerian descent who grew up in Athens. Nearly seven feet tall, he has emerged as a playmaking small forward with the potential to be, in the words of Jason Kidd, something like “LeBron and Dirk [Nowitzki]” combined. Giannis also, according to Simmons, has 12-inch hands: by comparison, LeBron has 9.3-inch hands; Jordan’s are 11.4 inches; even Wilt Chamberlain’s were only 11.5.
While unicorns aren’t necessarily the most successful players, they tend to be pretty good.
Giannis currently plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, where he averages 24 points, 6 assists, and 9 rebounds, while ranking second only to Westbrook in ESPN’s holistic PER metric. Give him time and he might just become a household name.
See the full list of true and partial unicorns, past and present, at The Ringer.
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