Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo celebrated his 25th birthday with a blowout win over the LA Clippers on Dec. 6.
LeBron James will be 11 days away from turning 35 when his Los Angeles Lakers face Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday at Fiserv Forum.
Antetokounmpo is impressed by how James is moving in Year 17 of his career, and he uses it as inspiration.
“It’s crazy. Obviously, for me, that’s one of my goals to be able to play at a high level for the next 10 years, but he’s about to turn 35 this month and he’s moving like that, playing like that, and just playing smart,” Antetokounmpo said after Wednesday’s practice.
“It’s insane to see what he’s able to do, but he’s LeBron James, he’s different. He’s an alien. So you expect it from him, but yeah, it’s crazy.”
The Bucks and Lakers are sitting atop the Eastern and Western conferences, respectively, with matching 24-4 records as they prepare to clash for the first of two times this season.
Antetokounmpo is averaging 31.7 points, 12.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists as the Bucks look to bounce back from Monday’s loss to Dallas. Prior to that, Milwaukee ran off 18 consecutive wins — good for second most in franchise history.
Milwaukee is 23-1 following a loss in the past two seasons and 3-0 this year.
James leads the league in assists (10.6) while averaging 25.9 points and 7.4 rebounds. James’ player efficiency rating (PER) of 26.8 is also on pace to be the second highest of anyone in an age-35 season or later (Karl Malone had 27.1 in 1999-2000), per ESPN Stats & Information research.
“What LeBron James has done in our league is phenomenal,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He’s just a very, very special player, so anytime you get to play against him — and now Anthony Davis is very similar and they’ve got great fits, great players around them. So I think the thing we often talk about when you play a really good team is how you get tested and how you learn more about yourself.
“I think that’s kind of the way I look at it, and that usually means you’re playing somebody good, and I’m excited about that opportunity.”
Watch Giannis interview: http://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=28329818
Reports by Eric Woodyard / ESPN