"One of a kind."
It's a phrase that is used far too much. How many different things have been called "one of a kind" when they simply aren't?
A certain piece of paper that houses an image of baseball legend Honus Wagner routinely sells for close to and upwards of one million dollars because it is advertised as rare and "one of it's kind." In fact, many more Honuses exist (that must be some really good paper).
The NBA has literally had tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of players step onto the court and play. So when I say there are not one, but two players playing in today's NBA that are truly one of a kind and non-comparable players, that's pretty remarkable right? Well, it's true. It's 100 percent true.
Those two players are LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Is it a coincidence that these two players are the most talked about players in the game right now? It seems like half of the articles written about Durant or LeBron are trying to compare them to some other player. We've tried and tried to find players to compare them to and we have failed and failed some more.
LeBron gets the comparison to Magic Johnson quite a bit, but are they really close to being the same player? LeBron may possess a Magic-like passing sense, but they are not nearly the same guy.
LeBron plays a very aggressive, slashing style of game, throwing down ferocious dunks and blocking shots into the 11th row.
Magic's game was always very graceful. Magic was never throwing it down in opponents faces or finishing the break with a rhino-like windmill. The highlights of Magic are his no-look passes and graceful layups. Magic's most memorable moment, his sky hook to win Game 4 of the '87 Finals, is the perfect snapshot of his game.
LeBron might produce magic on the basketball court, but he is not Magic.
Kevin Durant is a little bit harder to figure out. We really haven't decided a player to compare him to. Some say Tracy McGrady in his prime, but that should be considered a disappointment if that's all that Durant becomes. He has a shooting touch that McGrady never quite had and also has leadership instincts that T-Mac never did.
The fact that he's emerging into a rebounder who could eventually clean the boards for up to 10 rebounds per game also distinguishes him from McGrady. Also, Durant's showing an ability to win games, something McGrady never quite mastered (still has 0 playoff series wins). Save Kevin the T-Mac comparisons, it's quite a disservice.
It is easy to compare some players to others. Kobe's playing style is very similar to Jordan's, therefore we see many Kobe-Jordan comparisons. Some take these as saying Jordan and Kobe are in the same class (Which I don't think you can say, unless Kobe wins more titles than Jordan. Jordan will outstat Kobe, so he needs at least seven titles to be considered as good as MJ).
However, most people compare each player's desires for victory, clutch shooting, and passion for the game. Kobe isn't MJ, but very many aspects of his game reflect the way Jordan played.
The real question is "Why do we need to compare every superstar in the making to past superstars?" Every up-and-coming swingman scorer is "the next MJ." It may be a surprise for many to learn that Michael Jordan graced the cover of Sports Illustrated with a quotation saying "The Next Dr. J?" right underneath of a picture of Jordan. I'd say Jordan did a little bit more than become the next Dr. J.
As a society, we just have an obsession with comparing any new, strange thing to something else. When there is a strange meat (let's say raccoon) and somebody asks what the taste is like, the answer is usually "tastes like chicken." We like to compare new things to common, known commodities, even if it isn't a completely accurate comparison.
So, now every great swingman is compared to Jordan and every great, over-sized passer to the Magic Johnson. Now, most players would be honored to be compared to either of those greats, and I'm sure raccoon doesn't mind being compared to chicken, but why can't we just sit back and enjoy these new things for what they are (to clarify, I've never eaten raccoon)? LeBron isn't Magic, Durant isn't T-Mac (or various others he's compared to), and raccoon is definitely not chicken.