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The NBA's Top 25 Players and Their Historical Counterparts

Pat MixonSenior Analyst IJanuary 5, 2017

The NBA's Top 25 Players and Their Historical Counterparts

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    There’s a phrase that goes something like nothing new really exists under the sun. Anything we think is original, really has been done before. The same theory could be applied to the NBA. There are great players today who standout, who we regard as superstars, players who will be in the Hall of Fame.

    But, are any of them truly originals? Or, do they possess and display traits to historical counterparts?

    The answer is most definitely yes. There isn’t a player today that, at least in some way, doesn’t resemble a past legend. In fact, some players, like the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, even go so far as to study the moves and tendencies of past players. He then integrates the move into his arsenal.

    Other players might not mimic but are simply copies of past legends. Some only display brief flashes of an old player. Others, are simply poor copies, cheap knockoffs of historical counterparts that were the real, better thing.

    With this being said, let’s take today’s top 25 NBA players and compare them to their historical counterparts.

    Some players might resemble more than one past legend, but we’ll have to narrow it down to the past great the current player most reminds everyone of. And, one past great might be seen in multiple players today. We won’t limit it that way, either.

    Lastly, we’ll also look for anything that resembles a past counterpart. Maybe it’s their entire game. Or, the way they come up big for big games. We won’t limit it to strictly a position-by-position comparison, either. While it will mostly work that way, in some cases, it might not. Lastly, while it will mostly be their play and moves on the court, we won’t throw out a look-a-like comparison. 

    And, remember this is subjective, both the top 25 and especially who they compare to in the past. There are multiple ways this could go. The list is solid but a player or two could flip flop in spots or an aging player could be removed in place of an up and comer for our top 25.

    You’ll have to let me know if you agree or disagree with today’s top players. And, I want to know if you think there is a better player from the past the current one compares to.

    So, here are the Top 25 NBA players and their historical counterparts:

No. 25: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Stephen Curry = Chris Mullin

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    No. 25: Stephen Curry=Chris Mullin.

    Fitting that Curry ended up on the Golden State Warriors, huh? Deadly outside shooter with a developing game on both ends of the court.

    Don’t forget, Mullin had all-around solid game. He’s a top 50 player of all time. Curry has that potential.

No. 24: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Russell Westbrook= Scottie Pippen

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    No. 24: Russell Westbrook=Scottie Pippen.

    High-flyer, great defender, developing offensive skills. Just like the old Chicago Bull and running mate of Michael Jordan.

    Will Westbrook playing alongside Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City turn out to be another super second fiddle?

No. 23: Yao Ming, Houston Rockets

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Yao Ming = Bill Walton

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    No. 23. Yao Ming = Bill Walton.

    Both had major feet problems and never played to potential. At least Walton won two rings, one in Portland as the man and one in Boston as a great sixth man. Yao has returned this season for another shot. Can his health hold up for a run at a title?

No. 22: Shaquille O'Neal, Boston Celtics

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

     

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Shaquille O’Neal = Wilt Chamberlain

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    No. 22: Shaquille O’Neal = Wilt Chamberlain.

    Shaq’s only this low on the list because he is in the twilight of his career. Most dominant big men of their time. Offensive superstars in the paint but no range. Both were great defenders.

No. 21: Brandon Roy, Portland Trailblazers

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Brandon Roy = Clyde Drexler

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    No. 21: Brandon Roy = Clyde Drexler.

    Roy is another smooth operator. Roy has better outside game and but not the high-wire act the Glide was. Both Portland superstars, so only fitting to compare them to each other.

No.20: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Tim Duncan = Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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    No. 20: Tim Duncan = Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

    Both players were so low key but so fundamental. Proven winners, shot blockers, and scoring machines in the paint.

No. 19: Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Kevin Garnett = Bill Russell

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    No. 19: Kevin Garnett = Bill Russell.

    Heart. Defense. Garnett is far better offensively. Both winners and Celtic legends.

No.18: Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Steve Nash = "Pistol" Pete Maravich

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    No. 18: Steve Nash = "Pistol" Pete Maravich.

    Can you say guys with crazy passes? And, doesn’t Nash scramble around much like the Pistol did? Sure, Maravich was even flashier than Nash but both players could really score. Nash has far more range and consistent outside shot than the Pistol.

No.17: Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Paul Pierce = Jerry West

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    No. 17: Paul Pierce = Jerry West.

    Is it even in the rival rule book to be allowed to compare a Celtic to a Laker?

    Well, in this case, these two are very similar.

    Clutch. Great shooters with range. Tough competitor. Winners.

No. 16: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Derrick Rose = Walt Frazier

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    No. 16. Derrick Rose = Walt Frazier.

    Both so skilled off the dribble. Rose might not have the range yet that Frazier had but the Bull has the same flash and offensive firepower. Frazier, the former New York Knick, was proven winner. We’ll see about Rose.

No. 15: Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Tony Parker = John Stockton

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    No. 15. Tony Parker = John Stockton.

    Both little guys who not only could pass but score. Parker is far quicker than Stockton ever dreamed of being, but the Utah Jazz player had far more consistency from distance. Parker has improved his outside shot immensely and has one other thing over Stockton—multiple NBA titles. 

No. 14: Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Knicks

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Amar’e Stoudemire = Hakeem Olajuwon

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    No. 14. Amar’e Stoudemire = Hakeem Olajuwon.

    Athletic and mobile. Super quick in the post. However, Stoudemire never will reach legend like Houston Rocket Hakeem status unless he plays all-out for a full 48 minutes, especially on the defensive end.

No. 13: Chris Bosh, Miami Heat

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Chris Bosh = James Worthy

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    No. 13. Chris Bosh = James Worthy.

    Both men make their living on quick post moves and consistent midrange jumpers. Hardworking guys on both ends of the court. Great teammates. And, Bosh will be the No. 3 guy on his super team, just like Worthy was on the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s with Magic and Kareem. Not a bad supporting guy, huh?

No. 12: Deron Williams, Utah Jazz

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Deron Williams = Oscar Robertson

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    No. 12: Deron Williams = Oscar Robertson.

    A big point guard who not only could pass but score.

No. 11: Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Chris Paul = Isiah Thomas

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    No. 11: Chris Paul = Isiah Thomas.

    The little men that could dominate. Period. CP3 & Isiah, the former Detroit Piston, were point guards that could score.

    Paul will need to develop Isiah’s not-so-nice streak. Don’t be fooled by the smile, he was mean.

No. 10: Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Joe Johnson = Rick Barry

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    No. 10: Joe Johnson = Rick Barry.

    Super high scorers from forward position. Great shooters with range. Both on smaller market teams. 

No. 9: Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Rajon Rondo = Sam Jones???

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    Does Rajon Rondo = Sam Jones, the old Celtic great? 

    Or, someone else?

    Go to the next slide to find out.

Rajon Rondo = Dennis Rodman

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    No. 9: Rajon Rondo = Sam Jones with Dennis Rodman defense and attitude.

    Rondo is unique so he isn’t like just one guy of the past.

    He’s got the passing and Celtic pride of Sam Jones.

    But then, Rondo has the defense spirit of Rodman. Don’t be surprised if Rondo wins a Defensive Player of the Year. And, he’ll lead the league in steals and rebounds unlike any point guard since Magic Johnson.

No. 8: Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Pau Gasol = Kevin McHale

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    No. 8: Pau Gasol = Kevin McHale.

    Both are power forwards with serious finesse games. So skilled down low with both hands. McHale had nastier streak (i.e.. See Kurt Rambis clothesline in 1984 NBA Finals.) Gasol was born to play the triangle. Both are big-time winners.

No. 7: Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Dirk Nowitzki = Larry Bird

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    No. 7: Dirk Nowitzki = Larry Bird.

    Arguably the two best shooting big men of all time. But Bird was on another level than Dirk.

    The Boston Celtic great could rebound, play D, and what truly separates him from Dirk are the NBA titles. Dirk is only a copy of Larry Legend. But Dirk is special and has played in one NBA Finals.

No. 6: Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Dwyane Wade = Elgin Baylor

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    No. 6. Dwyane Wade = Elgin Baylor.

    Most fans don't know or never saw Elgin Baylor, the former Los Angeles Laker great, play basketball. But, you'd be surprised because Baylor was a high-flyer and deadly scorer long before Dr. J, MJ or even Kobe.

    Wade compares right up there with Baylor. Both had amazing all-round games: scorers, defenders and game closers. Wade is more athletic but while Baylor played in the 1960s, he had game for today.

No. 5: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Dwight Howard = David Robinson

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    No. 5: Dwight Howard = David Robinson.

    Defense and developing offense skills are the standard for both players. They are both super athletic big-men. Both are stand-up guys, on and off the court and well-liked by nearly everyone.

    Robinson eventually won a title late in his career with the San Antonio Spurs. Howard has already been to a Finals. Howard will continue to improve his post moves and only get better.

No. 4: Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Carmelo Anthony = George "The Iceman" Gervin

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    No. 4: Carmelo Anthony = George "The Iceman" Gervin.

    Only MJ and Wilt had more scoring titles than the former San Antonio Spur, George Gervin.

    Melo is the same big-time scorer. Seems like he could lead the league in points every year, if he wanted. Both are great shooters with range. Melo could get better on defensive end. He is a stronger rebounder than Gervin.

    But, like Gervin, we have to ask: Will Melo ever win a ring? 

No. 3: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Kevin Durant = Alex English???

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    Does Kevin Durant compare to Denver Nugget great, Alex English?

    Or someone else?

    Go to next slide to see...

Kevin Durant = Julius "Dr. J." Erving

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    Kevin Durant = Alex English or Julius "Dr. J." Erving?

    What will it be?

    Before this summer’s World Championships, Durant looked more like English than the Doctor.

    Now, Durant looks like he’s got the confidence to take it to the next level. We know he has the game. He's so long and big and can score so many ways.

    But, can he now match the former Philadelphia 76er in Dr. J. and become a NBA champion?

No. 2: LeBron James, Miami Heat

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

LeBron James = Earvin "Magic" Johnson

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    No. 2: LeBron James = Magic Johnson.

    All-round game. Passers. Biggest players with that level of skills for perimeter positions.

    Obviously, LBJ is far more athletic than the former Los Angeles Laker. But Magic was better rebounder and passer, although LeBron's ability to dish is forgotten sometimes among his dunks.

    What separates Magic right now from LeBron is Magic's killer instinct. And, of course, the five NBA rings.

    But, LBJ is just getting started. And, think about him possibly playing some point guard for the newly assembled Miami Heat. If he does and the Heat get out and really run, can you say Showtime in South Beach?

No. 1: Kobe Bryant

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Here's one of the top 25 current players in the NBA. 

    On the next slide, you'll see their historical comparison.

Kobe Bryant = Michael Jordan

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    No. 1: Kobe Bryant = Michael Jordan.

    All-round games. Deadly scorers; Killer Instinct. Game closers. Champions. Arguably the No. 1 (MJ) and number two (Kobe) best perimeter players of all time.

    Until the Lakers are dethroned, Kobe’s at the top of the list no matter what regular season hardware or accolades dished out to other players.

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