From LeBron James to Carmelo Anthony: Top 10 NBA Players Compared to NBA Legends

Tim MoodyContributor IIMay 22, 2012

From LeBron James to Carmelo Anthony: Top 10 NBA Players Compared to NBA Legends

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    The task of picking the top 10 NBA players is certainly tough because there are so many talented basketball players right now.  When narrowing a list to only 10, one is forced to leave out such greats as Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan (both past their prime), as well as young stars like Blake Griffin and Kyrie Irving (both could easily crack this list within a year).

    As if picking the top 10 current players isn't controversial enough, haven't you ever wondered which legend LeBron's game is modeled after?  Or who does their best impression of "Pistol" Pete Maravich?

    Finding out is just a few clicks away.  Here is the top 10 current NBA players and their legend comparisons.

1) LeBron James, SF, Miami Heat

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    LeBron James is a physical specimen whose combination of size (6'8" 250) and athleticism should draw envy from any other athlete.  He is simply bigger, faster, stronger and more talented than the competition.

    But we knew that already.

    This past season James elevated his game to a whole new level, setting career highs in field goal percentage (.531) and three-point field goal percentage (.362).  When a small forward shoots over fifty percent from the floor while grabbing 7.9 rebounds and dishing out 6.2 assists per game, it really isn't fair to the competition.  He also posted a player efficiency rating (PER) of 30.74; the next best PER was Chris Paul at 27.04.


    LEGEND COMPARISON: MJ (or should it be EMJ?)

    Of course in this situation MJ does not stand for Michael Jordan, instead it stands for Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr.  Didn't Magic play point guard?  Yes, yes he did.  To be completely honest the "SF" next to LeBron's name should really read PG/SG/SF/PF/C.  LeBron James and Magic Johnson are the only two players in NBA history with the ability to dominate while playing any position on the court.

2) Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Like James, Durant has an enviable combination of height (6'9") and athleticism.  He uses his length to get shots off over opponents and get to the rim almost at will.

    Right now it is hard to argue that Durant is not the best pure scorer in the league; he has led the NBA in points per game for three years running.  This season he had the edge on James in rebounding, although just barely (eight for Durant, 7.9 for James), but the thing keeping him firmly at number two is his lesser, but still respectable, ability to create for his teammates as well as James' dominating presence on the defensive end.


    LEGEND COMPARISON: "Pistol" Pete Maravich

    The comparison between "Pistol" Pete and Durant may not seem particularly conventional to many basketball fans.  Maravich did not have the length that Durant has nor did he slam home thunderous dunks over helpless defenders on a regular basis.  

    The place where the comparison comes from is each player's silky smooth mid-range game.  Maravich made a living off of the pull up jumper and made it look like an art form, even with his slightly unconventional shot.  Durant is another artist of the jump shot and is able to knock down mid-range jumpers like he is alone in the gym.

3) Chris Paul, PG, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Right now Chris Paul is the best point guard in the NBA.  Without Paul, the Clippers would still be hidden in the shroud of futility that has haunted them for years.  He is the top creative force in the game of basketball today, although arguments can go out for Steve Nash and maybe even the young gun Ricky Rubio as well.

    We see the separation between Paul and the other top point guards only when we look beyond creativity and passing ability.  Whether knocking down a three, hitting a runner or getting to the rim, Paul is a dominant scoring force from the point.  He is also very strong defensively because he hounds opposing guards and has a knack for stealing the ball.



    Thomas was a great all-around player similar to Paul.  He shot the ball decently, played good defense, dished with the best of them and was able to beat defenders to the rim and score from close-range.  

    Paul makes beating defenders look far to simple, just as Thomas did throughout his career.

    Possessing a near identical skill set, similar size (or lack there of) and similar career numbers, the comparison of "Zeke" and Paul is fairly simple. 

4) Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic

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    Dwight Howard is the single most dominant defensive presence in the league today.  Blessed with an impressive physical form (6'11" 265) and other worldly athleticism for a man his size, "Superman" is the best big-man in the game today.  

    The three-time defensive player of the year dominates the boards and owns the paint.  He is one of the most intimidating presences in basketball.

    Along with his spectacular defense Howard does possess solid offensive skills.  His free-throw shooting is poor at best, but he has developed a solid array of post moves and can be counted on to throw down at least one thunderous dunk every game.


    LEGEND COMPARISON: Hakeem Olajuwan

    Olajuwan was a better offensive player than Howard, although their career points-per-game averages are not far off.  Where the comparison really comes from is rebounding and defensive ability.  Olajuwan was a two-time defensive player of the year himself.  

    Beyond playing ability Howard also has a build that is reminiscent of Olajuwan.

    Howard is still relatively young and could easily become as good as Olajuwan on both sides of the ball.

5) Kobe Bryant, SG, Los Angeles Lakers

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    A few years back ranking Bryant at number five would have been considered blasphemous.  As age and injuries begin catching up with Kobe, his has dropped off, although only slightly, causing him to no longer be in contention for the title of best player in the world.

    At 33 years old, Bryant does still have a few years to showcase his spectacular scoring ability.  There have not been many players in history who have been able to score with the same volume and quality.  He is one of the most unstoppable offensive forces the sport has ever seen.

    Beyond his offensive abilities Bryant has always been an imposing defensive presence as well.


    LEGEND COMPARISON: Michael Jordan

    This is one of the easiest comparisons to make.  Bryant's game is in many ways modeled after Jordan's.  From the trademark fadeaway jump shot to the breathtaking control while in the air both of these players have the ability score on the best defenders around.  When the game is on the line Jordan would be anyone's first choice to take the last shot and Kobe would be second.

    Bryant and Jordan are also two of the greatest champions the game has ever seen: six NBA championships for Jordan and five for Bryant. 

6) Dwyane Wade, SG, Miami Heat

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    Wade would have been ranked higher on this list in the past, but a combination of injuries and the presence of LeBron James have taken a hit on his production.

    One of the most gifted all-around athletes in the league, as well as one of the top scorers, Wade would be the go-to guy on pretty much any other team.  His NBA championship also shows that he is a winner who does not back down from the challenge (the Heat were down 3-1 in the finals against the Mavericks in 2006 before coming back to win).

    Wade can score from the post and mid-range equally well and is one of the best finishers in the game.  One of the only knocks on his game is his lack of an outside jump shot, but he makes due without taking many threes.

    Among guards, Wade is also known as one of the best shot-blockers.


    LEGEND COMPARISON: Scottie Pippen

    Wade has consistently put up higher scoring numbers than Pippen throughout his career, but that is largely due to the fact that Pippen was typically playing with Michael Jordan.  In the end Wade's scoring ability is very similar to what Pippen's was in his prime.  Pippen also had a strong post game, considering his size.  Like wade, he was never considered to be an exceptional shooter.

    Pippen played strong defense, crashed the boards and created for his teammates.  These are all things that Wade has a habit of doing as well.

7) Derrick Rose, PG, Chicago Bulls

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    The 2011 NBA MVP lands at seventh on this list but could easily rise up in the coming years.  Rose is one of the most gifted athletes ever to play the point-guard position.  His speed combined with strength and leaping ability allow him to get to the rim whenever he pleases.

    He is also an improved jump-shooter and creator for his team.  He is currently the face of the Bulls' franchise and will be one of the top players for years to come.

    His injury in the 2012 playoffs took the Bulls from being arguably the best team, to losing in the first round.  That incident alone shows his ability as a player.


    LEGEND COMPARISON: Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway

    Hardaway was a lot taller than Rose (6'7" compared to 6'3") and was only really healthy for a few years, but while playing he showed a very comparable skill set to Rose's.  Hardaway used his athleticism to get to the rim and score over less gifted opponents.  Rose utilizes his physical tools in a similar fashion.

    Rose's jump shot is also surprisingly similar to the motion of Hardaway's shot.

8) Dirk Nowitzki, PF, Dallas Mavericks

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    Nowitzki's performance in the 2011 NBA Finals solidified his status as a top 10 player in the league.  The former NBA Most Valuable Player finally got his championship and truly proved himself as a player.

    Nowitzki is a very unique player considering his seven-foot frame.  Instead of hiding in the post and crashing the boards on every possession Nowitzki is known as one of the best pure shooters in the game.  His fade away jump shot is one of the most beautiful sights in the league.

    The biggest knock on his game is that he does not grab as many rebounds as one might expect from a player of his size, nor does he play the best defense.



    Bird was well known for making spectacular shots from the most incredible positions.  Nowitzki is similar in that he can get his shot off whenever he wants, no matter who is guarding him.

    Bird was, of course, a much better all-around player (one of the best to every step on the court).

9) Kevin Love, PF, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Kevin Love is currently the second best rebounder in the league, only behind Dwight Howard.  His 31-point, 31-rebound performance against the Knicks in 2010 was one of the most amazing displays in recent memory.

    Beyond his rebounding prowess, Love is also a very gifted scorer.  He averaged a career high 26 points this past season and proved that he has a solid outside jumper, especially for his size.  Love is also very strong in the clutch and willing to take the last shot for his team.



    This is a bit of a throwback comparison but Lucas, like Love, was simply a dominating presence on the boards.  Some say that Love only grabs so many rebounds because of his supporting cast, but it is hard to argue with his numbers, which happen to be very similar to Lucas'.

10) Carmelo Anthony, SF, New York Knicks

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    The argument could be made that Anthony is the single best pure scorer in the game today.  The argument is also often made that he is the most overrated player in the league today.  

    He is, in fact, one of the top scorers.  Since his rookie year Anthony has shown that he can score on NBA opponents with ease.  His mid-range and post games are very strong and his outside game is nothing to be laughed at.

    Once his team has more success in the playoffs Anthony will finally see his name rise up this list.


    LEGEND COMPARISON: George Gervin

    Anthony is one of the tougher players to compare to a legend because his game is fairly unique.

    Gervin was much lankier than Anthony is, but both players can be described as pure scorers.  Anthony's most dangerous weapon is his mid-range game, much like Gervin's was throughout his career.