A little more than a week ago, watching the Milwaukee Bucks play against my beloved Portland Trail Blazers, I saw Giannis do some shit to steal the game right out from the Blazers' nose. In the last 40 seconds of the game, he managed to pick the ball off both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Lillard from the front, CJ from behind (maybe a little foul-y but anyone who complains is a cop, frankly), and then, on the last Blazer possession of the game, rotate to a rolling Jusuf Nurkic and block the big man clean at the rim at the rim, leaving him sitting on his ass and hugging his knees, clearly and openly dumbfounded about what just happened to him.
I wasn't even mad. Two wonderful guards and a big man on the rise, both stopped in their tracks like they were nothing. I shrugged my shoulders and accepted total defeat with grace. Great players dominate and win, pull shit out of their ass, warp the structure of on-court reality. It's the way of basketball.
For the last two or so years, the book on Giannis was that he would be a completely unstoppable player, once he figured out that three point shot. So far this year, he's managed to do the former without making an honest attempt at the latter. Giannis gets to the rim, Giannis scores, it doesn't matter what you want to do about it. He is scoring 34.7 point a game, shooting 63 percent from the field, 75 percent from the line, and managing a nearly 69 percent true shooting percentage. I am loathe to say this because, well, people regress and I don't wanna seem dumb in the immediate future, but so far this season, Giannis is a ball handling Shaq who makes most of his free throws.
And so, in recognition of this fact, here is Giannis literally just doing some Shaq shit on a bunch of dudes he is better than. He catches the ball in the post against Kent Bazemore on the right block, uses his new and improved streamlined shoulder beef to push Bazemore into the paint, draws Tuarean Prince and Josh Collins into a triple team, faces up, pump fakes, realizes that not one of these three dudes can honestly do shit about shit, rises up and just flushes on all three of them with one hand, then extends his full reach on the rim for a good second or so.
Even if we weren't playing a time when post defense is being cast aside in favor of guarding speed and spacing, this would work. The Modern Giannis is huge, strong and confident. He could have blitzed down on, let's say, John Amaechi just like he does on Bazemore, here. But thanks to the personnel requirements of the modern NBA offense (again, dudes who offer speed and spacing), even a TRIPLE TEAM can't stop Giannis.
As the league gets smaller and smaller, faster and faster, spacier and spacier, there's always been a contingent of people who see the change and think, quietly to themselves that this can't last forever, no problem is unsolvable.
Basketball is built for these world breakers. Think about the current best baseball player in the world, Mike Trout. He is startlingly wide, his eye is amazing, his speed and instincts impeccable, his brain seems like it was engineered for professional sports. And yet, not even he, maybe the most skilled player to ever pick up a bat, can manage to consistently guide the Angels to the postseason. He is imprisoned in the bat-to-ball-exchange, the chaos inherent in one round object colliding with another at insane speeds. It does not matter how good he is, he cannot overcome the wall of luck itself.
Basketball is not like this. Basketball is determinate. People who have good seasons tend to go on having good seasons, and people whose size and skill allow them to punish anyone who gets sent at them change the fundamental realities of the game as they play it. Mikan, Russell, Kareem, Jordan, Lebron, Curry, they're more than just craftsmen who give their all to a broader spectrum effort. They bend space time and create unsolvable problems, destroy and remake the game around themselves, create rules and compromises that other teams simply must follow, and in their moments of true greatness, they break through those, too. When you see Giannis blaze through three dudes and rise up for a dunk, it's hard not to see him maybe creating the next great unsolvable problem in basketball.