The Heroes and Villains Across the Current NBA

So I’m sitting on my bed on a Thursday night watching the late slate of west coast NBA games, and I flipped the channel to Mavs vs. Blazers. While I’m watching the two teams play in a meaningless, middle of the regular season game with potent scoring and almost no defense whatsoever, I noticed something. Following a deep step-back three, the screen panned to Luka Doncic with a sly smirk backpedaling down the hardwood and I’m thinking to myself, “This dude’s a villain.”

This young, cocky, new face is trying to steal the crown from LeBron, Harden, Giannis and the other stars of the league. The others have all accomplished NBA MVP awards and had success in the playoffs, yet some people place young Luka right in the mix.

Then the camera panned to Kristaps Porzingis, barking at an opponent, all the while the man is literally spray-tanned. The perfect villain. After a little inspiration from a Shea Serrano [Writer for The Ringer and several books including Movies (And Other Things)] chapter about the best villains to hang out with, I decided to compare a few NBA players to their hero or villain counterpart. The heroes and villains are not exclusively Marvel or DC characters. I also compared players to TV show characters and pop culture figures.

The Heroes:

LeBron James: Superman. I mean, come on. His nickname is quite literally the King. He’s an obvious hero. And, he can do it all. Superman has superhuman strength, which I think we can all agree LeBron has. He fights through intentional fouls and still gets buckets. He defends centers and bodies up in the paint. Also, Superman has a durable body, and LeBron is now in year 17 of his NBA career and is still playing at an MVP level. As if he had X-ray vision, LeBron makes passes that no one else on the floor can see.

But the comparison doesn’t stop there. Just like Superman’s alter-ego Clark Kent, he fights for the people through advocacy and is invested in the lives of his fans and those that need him. Whether it be his infamous pinned block in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals against the stacked Warriors, or his heroic scoring outbursts in the playoffs, he always shows up when his team and his city need him. I mention the city because after he left Cleveland and then returned to win the city a championship, he exclaimed, “Cleveland, this is for you!” Not to mention, there’s the possibility he gets a rematch with the Mavericks at some point in the Western Conference playoffs to avenge his loss in the 2012 NBA Finals. Coincidence? I think not.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: Wonder Woman. It’s funny to me that people will hate this comparison. But listen to how accurate it is before you judge. Wonder Woman is the creation of Greek Gods. Giannis was born and played youth basketball in Greece and his nickname is the “Greek Freak.” Among Wonder Woman’s many powers are superhuman strength, superhuman speed and the power of flight. I think we can all agree that those match up with the superhuman abilities of the “Greek Freak” pretty perfectly. The guy can dunk from anywhere and sprint the length of the floor in 3 steps. I’d put my money on him to beat up most guys in the league. Except maybe Steven Adams. He had to have been in Narnia or Game of Thrones at some point.

Ben Simmons: Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. This one may be the most biased comparison on the list because he’s my favorite player on my favorite team, but he is the Fresh Prince (And it’s also his nickname). But the comparison is pretty accurate. He’s got the style that Will Smith also seemed to bring when he appeared in the sitcom, and Smith always repped Philadelphia sports. Simmons is always rolling into the Wells Fargo Center with some immaculate drip and his game backs it up. Alright, I’m hyping him up too much, I’ll stop. But he’s the man. Sorry. Sixers in 4. Okay, now I’m done.

The Villains:

The Golden State Warriors (2015-2019): Thanos/Kryptonite. The Warriors dynasty was something spectacular. But they were definitely villains — ruling the league for the four year stretch, winning three NBA Finals and going to five straight.

The reason people hated the Warriors was because of their star-powered team with four probable Hall of Famers in Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green (and that’s not including Andre Iguodala, who could find himself in the Hall as well). I compared them to Thanos because I see their star players as Infinity Stones. Also, their dominance in an antagonist role suited this comparison perfectly. They were so good you had to admire them, but still sort of hate them at the same time for being so dominant. I also compare them to Kryptonite because of my comparison of LeBron to Superman. They were the only force that could stop the King, as he would breeze through the East only to find the lethal Warriors in the NBA Finals year in and year out.

Kevin Durant: Cobra Commander. He’s a snake, plain and simple. He left a title contender to go play for the team that beat him in seven games the year prior. Russell Westbrook would love this section. The Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe is the leader of a terrorist organization (Warriors terrorized the league after he joined). When he was on the floor for the Warriors the game wasn’t fair. They were just too good, and he was the main reason. How do you guard a seven foot forward who can handle and shoot over anyone? You don’t. That’s how. And he had a couple fake burner twitter accounts backing himself up the whole time, which was pretty funny and oddly villainous.

Kawhi Leonard: The Terminator. It pains me to put Kawhi on the villain list but this comparison is too easy. He has to be a robot. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in the films, Kawhi does not exhibit any emotion on the court and has some questionable postgame interviews that have us all wondering what he’s like off the court. Whatever it is, you know he’s rocking some New Balances. Kawhi also does not stop until he has destroyed his target. Last year, that was evidently everyone as the Raptors secured their NBA Finals glory behind Kawhi’s dominant postseason. Now, on a star-studded and deep L.A. Clippers squad, the sky is the limit for the Terminator-like NBA superstar. The Western Conference playoffs this year will be must-watch TV.