• Penny Hardaway picks LeBron James over Giannis Antetokounmpo for NBA MVP
  • Hardaway says James does not have "pieces" like Antetokounmpo
  • Hardaway says position-less basketball is great for the game

LeBron James was setting himself up for the playoff mode, peaking in each and every game for the Los Angeles Lakers, until the NBA announced its emergency suspension last month. Giannis Antetokounpo, on the other hand, was wreaking havoc, all season long.

That leads to the discussion that most fans love to talk about, which is perhaps next to the championship talks: the MVP debate.

Joining the party, retired Orlando Magic star Penny Hardaway shared his pick on the hot topic when he spoke to ESPN on Monday – and he is siding with the King to win the hardware for the fifth time.

For Hardaway, who is now taking on head coaching duties for the Memphis Tigers in the American Athletic Conference, James has to be MVP because he had to do the heavier lifting than the Greek Freak. Justifying his pick, he said that unlike James, Antetokounmpo has teammates ultimately fit with the system being run by coach Mike Budenholzer.

“To me, Bron has to do so much more. And that’s no knock on any other Lakers. But when he’s off the floor, things are not the same,” said the four-time All-Star.

“I guess I am taking something away from Giannis. But I just see… No matter what, when having the ball in his hands, you still have to produce. And I know that Milwaukee has the number one record and that he doesn’t have as many pieces… but he has pieces that fit the system with him. He doesn’t have the names or another AD with him, but that’s all the Lakers were back in the day with Kobe and Shaq. They were great, but they had Rick Fox. They had Brian Shaw. They had Derek Fisher. That’s what, to me, Milwaukee has. They have those types of pieces to help Giannis out. And then they allow Giannis to be Giannis.”

James and Antetokounpo, whilst being the faces of the NBA, “embody” the shift to position-less basketball, per Jalen Rose. The drastic evolution has given the respective teams of both superstars an absolute advantage – the Bucks are the best in the East while the Lakers rule the West. But from the birds-eye view, the 48-year-old Hardaway believes the evolution is great for the game.

“Well you know, I like it (position-less basketball). It’s not traditional basketball anymore. So you don’t need those guys out there setting it up. Because you could take the center and put him out there like Jokic. Put him out there and let everything run through him. And that’s basically the same thing that Giannis and LeBron are doing,” he said.

No fans, no play: LeBron James
LeBron James and other NBA Superstars participated on a private conference call Monday (May 10) GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Harry How