Fantastically Bad Player Comparisons & Where to Find Them
If you follow/watch/read about basketball at all, you are probably aware of how often players are compared to other players. It’s a rampant talking point for young prospects.
They’re especially ubiquitous when we talk about the NBA Draft, and think we obsess over them for a number of reasons. In terms of ‘how badly can a person do in one broadcast,’ Jalen Rose currently holds the record.
WHAT GOOD IS A COMPARISON?
Very often we compare because of what we want a player to be. We’re looking for the next guy to do something incredible; to take us on a ride. Usually this is dictated by the transcendent player of the time. As fans, this is a self serving quest, but we can’t help ourselves.
Was there a more irritating for this than the immediate post-Jordan era? Hell, this even went on during the Jordan era. We just didn’t want to be without the greatest player ever, and we got a bit clingy.
We also do it to help us have an idea of where a guy might fit. Pretty straight forward, but it gives us an idea of who we’d like to see on our team in the future. It’s fun to argue about.
Lastly, it’s sneakily competitive. On Reddit, on Twitter, everywhere: it’s a challenge to see who can most accurately project what a guy is going to be. It’s a ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ event in the basketball fan decathlon to see who can pull the most accurate comparison.
Comparing players comes with many pitfalls, and sometimes they can be gloriously terrible. If you’re going to make a comparison, you’re going to want to know some basic guidelines for what to avoid.
I just want to get the first one out of the way…
(HUGE GASP) …RACE
This is the most infamous cliché in basketball comparisons. Many people reading this are guilty of this offense, and that’s okay. I’ve done it myself.
It’s fairly obvious that the NBA is predominantly black. You’d also be well within your rights as a reasonable person to note that those few caucasian fellows aren’t in the dunk contest.
We whiteys are the flightless birds — the emus — of the basketball world. I say that mainly because if you bring the ball low enough, we bite. We might even shit on your shoes if you stay still long enough.
Another reason is sheer percentages. In the NBA, you’re reaching into other eras almost by necessity, just to have more options. As of 2016 (the latest number I could find), only 18.3% of the NBA was white.
Is it true that white guys tend to be either specialists (typically not rim protectors, am I right) or plodding brontosaurus-types that fill the end of the bench? It’s true. Look, we’re just happy to be here. Here, let us screen for you.
You see this most often in the fact that lefties remind people of lefties. My favorite of all time: Jay Bilas, who compared Justice Winslow to James Harden. One of the actual and in all reality best one-on-one scorers and playmakers of our time with an energy guy that can be a disruptive defensive presence and largely excels at getting to the basket and getting out in transition. That’s hardly fair to the whole story picture of Winslow’s game, but it’s a fair summary.
Sorry to bring this up, Bilas.
It’s unfortunate for a player to have this happen, when they’re just beginning their career. This usually happens way too early for guys that have crazy athleticism ahead of their class (Seventh Woods, Andrew Wiggins, Ronnie Fields), and once the rest of the class catches up, you’ve got a good player getting labeled as a failure simply because he’s not what people expected.
A million and a half people have seen a video with this title, and you can bet that a guy like Malik Newman had his expectations for himself affected by this kind of comparison.
It’s a lot like a bad movie sequel. Gremlins 2 is a fine sequel, but mainly it fails at being the original, and people will fail to see the quality in the predecessor. In some ways it sets you up to fail. Also most people just didn’t get Gremlins 2. That’s the snottiest anyone’s (except Joe Dante, I guess) ever gotten about that movie.
Marcus/Jeffrey Jordan, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar Jr., David Webber, Shawn Kemp Jr., Patrick Ewing Jr… these are guys with last names that need no explanation. The weight of a last name and a legacy can make a comparison unavoidable.
ASSUMING THERE’S AN EXACT MATCH
This is where the CompCloud got its motivation, if I’m being honest. You get into the weeds of dialing in a player’s contemporaries and you lose sight of the fact that they’re likely a hodge-podge of players they played with, played against or watched over the years. There may be no comparison. Thus it’s helpful – and at times more accurate – to address all the parts of their game by comparing them to pieces of several players as opposed to looking for the 1:1 comparison.
Just be smart out there, alright? Lord knows we don’t want to look like fools, discussing a game.