Historical and Current Players Comparisons
I recognize these are not perfect or permanent comparisons, but right now I feel that they fit. You probably feel differently, and I understand. Enjoy. Chill.
Isiah Thomas and Donovan Mitchell were the most difficult to cut, I see the burgeoning potential, but Mitchell has a ways to go on the court (good things) and off the court (bad things) to get there. We can at least hope Joe Ingles says something wildly inflammatory after a loss and Mitchell unwisely backs him this year.
Scottie Pippen could have made it as the easy LeBron James comparison, but Magic is more memorable and interesting to write about. Scottie is used to this type of backseat treatment, what’s another wound?
Magic Johnson and LeBron James
Magic brought LeBron to the Lakers and LeBron is bringing Showtime back to Los Angeles. Without the Hall of Fame center of course, actually without a starting level center at all.
He’ll have help with multiple players encouraged to push the ball as the Lake Show has looked to run off everything, including opponents makes so far this preseason. LeBron as the off-ball and trailing threat on the break will be reminiscent of his Miami days. Him catching the ball on the move against defenses forced back onto their heels will see him finishing off plays, executioner style.
Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant
It’s like everything changes but always stays the same. Just when I thought the Warriors were the new thing I read this quote by Phil Taylor out of a giant Sports Illustrated Basketball’s Greatest book:
“Chicago has little use for the traditional concept of positions, because Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Toni Kukoc are all skilled enough to play point and big enough to post up defenders. “Just a bunch of versatile guys playing different positions,” Jordan says. “That’s the way the game is going.”
Durant from mid-range is the most automatic we have seen since Jordan. Whenever he catches the ball at the elbow with even a semblance of position it feels a matter of when instead of if he’ll put the ball in the basket. It’s that and his ability to absolutely close out teams in the fourth with a no questions asked green light while sharing the court with two of the best shooters of all-time.
Who else even remotely receives that treatment? Just Jordan, right? You might say Kobe , but wouldn’t feel great about it. Magic, LeBron, and Bird would be looking to create more often than not if they had those shooters on the perimeter. Durant is the only one.
No, Jordan would not have joined the best team in basketball nor would Durant retire mid-career to play baseball. Life comes at people differently.
Rick Barry and Jimmy Butler
This is a perfect example of ‘prisoner of the moment’ player comparison.
In a better world, I would be comparing Butler to Oscar Robertson as the gifted curmudgeon leading the TimberBulls to a title with Karl-Anthony Towns cast as a young Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Instead, KAT is young Nate Thurmond (sans Greek God physique, Towns is 7 foot Paul Pierce) and Butler pantsing the Wolves with his trade request on the eve of the season has made him Barry comparison worthy.
Butler’s request is akin to Barry’s ditching of the San Francisco Warriors for the ABA’s Oakland Oaks. The Warriors took the matter to court and forced Barry to sit out his first season due to the unpopular reserve clause. Barry’s bizarre response was to join the Oaks broadcast team for that season. Got me thinking though. If it’s not working out on the court, then maybe try Butler in the booth for a couple Wolves games this season. Stephen Jackson calling play by play, solid tandem. We want that smoke.
Both Barry and Jimmy have this thing about being wanted. But considering Barry became the highest paid player ever back in 1967 with the Oaks and Butler balked when he didn’t receive a lucrative extension this summer makes me think this onion has a couple more stinking layers.
Remember that time Barry was sucker punched in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals and none of his teammates defended him? Do you think Towns or Andrew Wiggins would be running to Jimmy’s aid if the same happened to him? Do you think maybe Towns throws the punch?
Consequently, Barry checked out for the rest of that game, his team lost and missed out on an NBA Finals trip. Butler surprise showed up to practice, mopped the floor with his teammates, and yelled “you f****** need me” at general manager Scott Layden. Both essentially said the same thing, albeit Barry went more metaphorical about it with the stakes a smidge higher.
More evidence: Butler became a giant dick to get off a rebuilding Bulls team. Barry was the lone player to testify in favor of the NBA-ABA merger to monopolize professional basketball. Barry’s is worse, both are awful.
Barry also referred to the next guy on this list as a loser in his book Confessions of a Basketball Gypsy(has a ⅘ rating on Goodreads). Taj Gibson described the trade request as a right hook after working out with Butler all this summer. Barry is responsible for the most reprehensibly awkward racist moment in sports broadcasting history with the guy two more spots down this list. Butler has nothing of that sort to his name and the similarities waned awhile ago.
Except for the equal lack of an explanation for either of these photos existing. Nothing short of nothing explains these.
Wilt Chamberlain and Joel Embiid
Embiid is listed at 7’0 tall with a 7’6 wingspan, which somehow sounds short when you look at him. Wilt was 7’1 with a 7’8 wingspan which sounds perfectly on par.
Y’all acting like TJ McConnell and JJ Redick were out there playing power forward!
Embiid might be this generation’s Wilt: Center of immense talent who takes just enough off the table that keeps him from entering top player of all-time discussion. His turnovers and willingness to take low percentage shots need to be cleaned up for him to fully dominate.
Bill Russell and Draymond Green
Controversy. Six quick reasons before you click out. Both Russell and Green:
Complete competitors willing to sacrifice individual accolades for betterment of their teams.
The defensive backbone for their teams.
Integral components of teams that created irreversible shifts in team building and play style.
Can be defined by winning more than any other factor.
All-time ‘grab and go’ rebounders with great open floor passing ability.
Amazing unscripted live television moments: The Bill Russell Middle Finger only equal is the Draymond Face while Fergie got America all hot and bothered for some basketball!
The 7th reason is in Game 7 of a knock down dragged out Finals series, I want Green on my team over Embiid. It’s not even close talent wise and I still wouldn’t hesitate. Same with Russell over Wilt.
Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook
Two guys that obviously help their teams win games but will drive the analytic community insane with their correctable deficiencies. The same guys you give the ball to on the last play of the game regardless of recent shot selection, the possible loss tonight being worth avoiding the potential headache tomorrow.
Both put butts in the stands since fans know they’re giving you everything every night. Both will also often sink their teams' hopes of building around them due to heavy cap holds and decided style of play.
Additionally, outside of the Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov monstrosities, both are directly responsible for two of the worst contracts in the Lakers recent rebuild. A washed Kobe collected a cool $48 million dollars his last two seasons and Westbrook inexplicably convinced Paul George to sign a 4-year, $137 million deal to continue playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, not the Lakers.
Larry Bird and Luka Doncic
It’s the shooting, the passing, the feel for the game, affinity for bar food, similar jumping ability, um. Both around the same height with Larry a little taller and Doncic a hair more athletic. And they are, they’re both...
Luka won Euroleague MVP and led Real Madrid to a Euroleague Title at age 18 while Bird carried an Indiana State team to a 1979 championship game loss against Magic. He earned the Naismith College Player of the Year for his troubles. Also, both white guys. I don’t know how you escape it.
Bill Walton and Nikola Jokic
Walton was twice the defender and athlete Jokic is during his prime yet Jokic may have already surpassed Walton’s capabilities on the offensive end. 40 years and a slew of changes to the NBA in the time between makes it impossible to know; along with the way, Walton peaked and immediately succumbed to injuries after winning a championship.
As fans, we should thank our lucky stars that the Joker looks like an NBA mainstay. Let’s hope his feet are less flat and Paul Millsap can be the Nuggets’ version of Maurice Lucas to keep him from wearing down.
Did someone take the time to just make a montage of Bill and Larry off-ball trickery? After the 1:30 mark you’re treated to 4 solid minutes of grainy footage of these wizards making basketball look easy more than amazing.
Is it bad that I can’t get it out of my mind the thought of Doncic and Jokic playing together now? Can the Mavericks and Nuggets make a trade where they get both every other year? Wait, that’s fun. You go, I go.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Marvin Bagley
I will get shredded for this one. Which is why I put it last, no one ever reads this far in the Twitter era. You could be halfway to Mordor with all the reading you’ve done here.
Maybe it’s the hair. Bagley is a pair of 70s sideburns away from Milwaukie Kareem. Or maybe it’s that 5 minutes of a Duke game was the totality of college basketball I watched this past year and Bagley jumped right off the screen. My first thought was “wow, there’s modern-day Kareem”. My first thoughts are frequently dumb thoughts.
You know Kareem was going to the skyhook and couldn’t stop it, you know Bagley is solely going to his left hand and can’t stop it. Maybe. At the time of this writing, we don’t know. So, here’s to dreaming big!
Hell yeah! Block it into the hoop every time for the next 20 seasons!