First off, I am a huge nerd, both for the game of basketball and for the world of science fiction. This short piece gives me an opportunity to combine my two favorite things, NBA basketball and superheroes. So indulge yourselves, give it a read, and see if you agree with the comparisons I’ve drawn. If you don’t, there’s always the comments section.
Mr. Fantastic – Rajon Rondo – First, I must include my disclaimer on Rajon Rondo. For the past 4 years you’d be hard pressed to find someone who thinks as highly of Rondo’s talent as I do. I’ve ruined parties and almost friendships because I think he’s the best point guard in the NBA today. That said, aside from Rondo’s poor 3 point and free throw percentage, he’s nothing short of a fantastic basketball player. Rondo’s physical gifts allow him to do much more than the traditional point guard can. With his Mr. Fantastic-like 6’9” wingspan, Rondo is able to more with the ball than any point guard we’ve ever seen. Paired with his gargantuan hands (9.5 inches long, 10 inches wide), Rondo is able to pinpoint his passing to anywhere on the floor and gives him the ability to be a menacing on and off ball defender. Don’t believe me? Just check out this Sports Science clip: Sports Science
Daredevil – Russell Westbrook – If there’s any one player that plays with absolute fearless abandon in the NBA, it’s Russell Westbrook. With his menacing dunks and erratic style of play, there’s no better superhero counterpart than Daredevil. He attacks the rim with such ferocity and violence it seems like he has a score to settle with it. He may take more risks that the average point guard, but as we know, higher risks brings about higher reward, and many times we, the fans, reap the benefits.
Captain America – Tim Duncan – Tim Duncan, the Big Fundamental, represents all that is good with basketball. He’s not flashy, he’s not outrageous; he does, however, get the job done. He’s the prime example of how to play the game and play it the right way. Like Captain America, he’s durable and his superb endurance has allowed him to play at the top of his game since his emergence into the league 15 years ago. At 36 years old, he’s still able to play as one of the elite frontcourt players in the league, but also accepts a diminished role at times, much like Captain America and his role with the heralded Avengers. He is the type of guy you point to and say, “That’s how you play the game.” Because, honestly, what’s not to love about Tim Duncan?
The Incredible Hulk – Dwight Howard – Dwight Howard is a freak, much like the Hulk. At 6’11”, 265 pounds, he is one of the most feared centers in the history of the league. With a rugged offensive game that focused on powering down his opponents with his inordinate strength and leaping ability, Dwight Howard is a force to be reckoned with. And you definitely don’t want to make him angry, as evidence by his messy break-up with the Orlando Magic and subsequent departure to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Batman – LeBron James – You’d be hard pressed to find an athlete in the history of sports that has had a faster fall from grace than LeBron James. Much like the Caped Crusader in the Dark Knight, LeBron James fell to a role of villainy after his departure from Cleveland. He became the anti-hero of the NBA, a villain in every city he visited except for his new home in Miami. He was, however, the villain the NBA needed at the time. In his inaugural season in South Beach, the NBA saw a meteoric rise in ratings and was once again peaking the interest of the average sports fan once again. Everyone loved hating LeBron, just as the people of Gotham came to hate Batman after he took the fall for the death of their White Knight, Harvey Dent. But after capturing an MVP, a NBA title, a Finals MVP, a gold medal at the Olympics and the coveted Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award all in 2012, James has risen again into the graces of sports fans across the country, like the Caped Crusader did after rescuing Gotham from the wrath of Bane and Talia Al Ghul in the Dark Knight Rises. Much like you should never doubt the Dark Knight, never doubt the resilience and talent of the King, LeBron James.
Iron Man – Kobe Bryant – There is perhaps no other superstar who is more outspoken and more polarizing than Kobe Bryant, which is why he so perfectly draws a comparison to Tony Stark’s Iron Man. Tony Stark, a billionaire playboy who also takes time to save the world, is never short on his controversial remarks. Kobe has had his fair share of controversial remarks as well, including saying he would rather play on Pluto than be involved in a rebuilding effort with the Lakers after the 2006-2007 season. Like Tony Stark, for Kobe it’s either his way or the highway, and the Los Angeles Lakers have certainly taken note of that in his 16 seasons with the franchise. Along with similar personalities, Kobe also shares some physical Iron Man traits. His most notable is his durability and ability to play through injury. While Kobe does not require an arc reactor or artificial nervous system to survive like Stark, he has played through injuries his entire career. His notables include playing on a bum ankle in the 2000 Finals against the Pacers, suffering through back injury in 2007-2008, toughing out a torn wrist ligament last season, and dealing with a broken index finger on his shooting hand for the past several seasons. If that doesn’t scream Iron Man, I don’t know what else does.
Professor Xavier – Gregg Poppovich – Professor Xavier relied on the powers and abilities of his mind. Gregg Poppovich, with his methodical approach to the game of basketball, possesses one of the greatest minds in the history of the NBA. With 4 NBA championships and 2 coach of the year awards under his belt, Poppovich is truly a maestro of basektball. His emphasizes toughness, patience, and good passing as his keys to success, and after 16 years with the Spurs, it appears as if has found the winning formula.
Thor – Blake Griffin – This one was easy. Since breaking into the league in 2010, Blake Griffin has excited fans with his ferocious dunks and brute style of play. His thunderous dunks and alley-oops resemble the god-like super hero from Norse world of Asgard, Thor. Thor was graced with superhuman speed, strength, agility and reflexes, gifts Griffin possesses on the court as well. Any doubters should ask Pau Gasol, Kendrick Perkins or Timofey Mozgov what it feels like when Griffin brings the hammer.
Superman – Kevin Durant – Thus far in Kevin Durant’s career, he’s proved he’s able to do it all. His ability to score the basketball appears otherworldly and he’s nearly an unstoppable force with the ball in his hands. His gangly figure in no way lends itself to the jacked physique of Superman, but he excels in arguably ever facet of the game. He’s an explosive slasher, a deadly shooter, a lockdown defender, fluid passer, and even recently developed ferociousness for rebounding. He’s been the clear MVP so far in his 2012-2013 campaign and it seems as if the skies the limit for the Durantula. His kryptonite thus far in his NBA career has without a doubt been LeBron James. During their match-up in the finals last season it appeared as if KD had finally met his match in James, arguably the one of the greatest players to play the game. As the season unfolds, we will have to wait and see if Superman can once again reach the finals and overcome his greatest weakness.
The Flash – Kyrie Irving – Kyrie Irving, in just one season in the NBA, has become a menace with the ball in his hands. With perhaps the best crossover-spin move in the NBA, opponents need to watch out for Irving when he has the ball in the paint. Much like the Flash, Irving possesses and inordinate speed and quickness, making him one of the elite point guards in the NBA after just one season. So move over Dwyane Wade, there’s a new speedster of the league.
Human Torch – Carmelo Anthony – Much like the Human Torch, Anthony has the ability to heat up offensively, and heat up fast. Anthony is arguably the best pure scorer in the NBA, able to either power down opponents in the post or finesse past them from outside the key. During the Olympics this summer in team USA’s game against Tunisia, Anthony connected on 6 of 6 shots in only 12 minutes of action en route to Team USA’s 47 point victory. In the Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs last year, Anthony erupted for 41 points against a lethal Miami squad. His ability to catch fire has also rubbed off on his teammates in New York as well as the Knicks began the season a perfect 6-0 and remain at the top of the Eastern Conference with a 15-5 record and no losses in Madison Square Garden.