Why are comparisons in sports so bad?
I fail to see the negatives. If I told you Adam Morrison was a great 6'10" forward from Gonzaga with crazy range, you'd stare at me blankly. If I told you Adam Morrison was the next Larry Bird, I'd suddenly have your attention. It's not like I'm saying that J.J. Redick (wrong size and type of game) or Rudy Gay (BLACK) is the next Bird. It's a white player with a very similar game and when you see him play, you put it together yourself.
It seems like every year, a player comes out who draws comparisons to another player who has come before and every year, people complain that we shouldn't do this. It's never going to stop because it's basic human nature to do this. Whaddya call it...association? If you see a player in a sport do things that remind you of another player you've seen before, you're going to automatically link the two. True, there have been times when the comparison made no sense (I still don't know how Harold Miner as "Baby Jordan" got started), but there are a lot of times where the comparison matches.
The first time I saw Kobe Bryant play, it was the worst case of "Single White Female" given life. This man looks like he studied Michael Jordan all the way down to his walk and mannerisms. Anyone who disagrees is clearly delusional. The only difference between these two mens' games is the fact that Kobe has hair on his head and Michael revolutionized sports advertising. That's about it.
So it's natural that I associate the two. Same height, same weight, same kind of player, same killer instinct. What's wrong with that? I'm not making up stuff to make the comparison fit...it's all right in front of you. What's wrong with comparing LeBron James and Magic Johnson? Two 6'10" point guards that make spectacular passes? Who else am I going to associate LeBron James with? World B. Free?
Vince Carter and Dominique Wilkins? Two 6'7" supertalents who can both jump out of the gym. Shaquille O'Neal and Wilt Chamberlain? Two massive 7 foot centers who were completely unguardable. Even though he hasn't shown the same defensive commitment, Lamar Odom draws Scottie Pippen comparisons all the time, because they are of similar build and skill set. It has given the Lakers a direction to push Odom into. The Lakers even hired Pippen to coach Odom. And Odom's no stranger to comparisons, because in high school, he was touted as the next Magic Johnson.
Some people think it's lazy to do this. I say it's the easiest way to get my point across. No one ever complains about this in music or TV or movies. No one ever says, "You shouldn't compare The Flintstones to the Honeymooners," even though one clearly aped the other. No one ever says, "You shouldn't compare Ja Rule, DMX, and 50 Cent to 2Pac," even though they are obvious clones (maybe the rappers in question don't like it...but fuck 'em. They shouldn't suck so bad). The thing is, until these players get their own identity, it's just going to be like this. They're going to have the identities of others thrust upon them. Hell, I compare my own nephew's game to Allen Iverson's. If you saw him play, you would, too. When growing up, no matter what you're into, you always imitate those you look up to. Until you get experienced enough to stand on your own, it's what you do. Ask any professional at anything and he or she always had someone they molded themselves after. Who didn't spend hours on the court trying to relive those Michael Jordan highlights?
Don't tell anyone, but I still do it. The six three pointers against Portland in the 92 Finals. It always sticks with me.
Some have brought up the racial aspect. White players are always compared to Bird, black players are always compared to...well, everyone else. There's nothing wrong with that, either. For one, it's no secret that the NBA and white America both want a great white player. Since Bird retired, college ball has been the last home of the dominant white player. Okay, except for Dirk Diggler. Everyone's looking for the next Larry Bird. The point, though, is that people wouldn't compare unless they were simliar. No one ever put Brent Barry and Michael Jordan together. "But they're both athletic two-guards!" the idiots say. Yeah, but nothing about skinny, pasty white Brent Barry ever made me think, "man, if that isn't the second coming of MJ." You put together what's similar. Even kids who haven't yet learned bladder control know that.
So don't feel bad when the analysts tell you you're wrong for comparing players. Tim Legler and Bill Walton are just mad that no one's comparing anyone to them.