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The unique athletic abilities of LeBron James and Giannis Antetokoumpo make them unstoppable at the rim. But one might be just a little bit more unstoppable than the other.
LeBron James is an absolute freight train. There might be no player in NBA history who has shared his combination of power, speed, grace and touch. He can’t get to the basket against almost any defender and he can finish over almost anyone.
Giannis Antetokounmpo does it slightly differently, trading some of LeBron’s brute strength for a few extra inches of wingspan. But he’s every bit as devastating around the rim and both players incredible outliers — comfortable playing on the perimeter but finishing around the basket with the efficiency of post-bound bigs who do nothing but dunk.
Is Giannis or LeBron a better finisher at the rim?
Since the advent of detailed play-by-play data in the 1996-97 NBA season, we’ve been able to track shots by location and parse player shooting percentages by distance. As one eagle-eyed NBA Redditor noticed, LeBron James holds the highest single-season field goal percentage at the rim in league history. But he might not have it much longer.
Per NBA Reddit:
“Right now, Lebron James (2014) owns the record (minimum 500 attempts), with 79.2%
The margins are very slim, as Shaquille O’Neal (2001) is second with 78.5%, and Giannis Antetokounmpo (2019) is third with 77.1%.
However, this season Giannis is shooting an insane 81.9% from at the rim. He will reach the volume minimum, and it’s a matter of whether he can sustain it or not, but it is looking very promising.”
While Giannis is finishing at a career-high rate around the basket those shots make up the smallest portion of his field-goal attempts of any season in his career. Expanding his perimeter game has long been a goal, part of the plan to help him unlock his full potential. Here’s hoping he doesn’t move too far away from what made him so special to begin with.