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Shaquille O'Neal recently made waves on "The Big Podcast" when he said that Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is better than he was at age 24. O'Neal pointed to the differences between play styles in today's NBA and when he was coming up in the league as the catalyst for Giannis' advantage over him.
Let's take a look at the two freak athletes' stats through their age 24 seasons and see if they support Shaq's claim.
During the five seasons Shaq played before his age 24 season, he averaged 26.9 points and 12.4 rebounds per game. Giannis has much more modest career stats to date, recording 18.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game spanning six seasons.
The discrepancy between the two players' cumulative statistics is largely because Giannis had a much slower start to his career than Shaq. He averaged only 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game his rookie season compared to 23.4 points and 13.9 rebounds for O'Neal during his rookie campaign.
One often overlooked area that Giannis has had an early lead on Shaq is the ability to stay healthy. Giannis has played an average of 77 games per season compared to just 69 for Shaq.
However, if you take an isolated look at the players' age 24 seasons, Giannis is having a slightly better statistical season than Shaq did.
Shaq averaged 26.2 PPG on 56-percent shooting. Giannis is averaging 27.4 PPG on 58-percent shooting. Shaq and Giannis both averaged 12.5 RPG, so the only featured statistic Shaq has an advantage is paint PPG, averaging 19.6 compared to Giannis' 17.5. Of course, that could be attributed to the variance in offensive systems between the eras that each player played in.
So while Shaq has had the better career up to this point, Giannis appears to have caught up to O'Neal, at least for now. Only time will tell if the Greek Freak can ever reach the career heights that Shaq did, but in the meantime, at least the talking heads now have a new debate to engage in.