Opinion

NBA Western All-Stars & Their Legendary Doppelgangers

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The NBA has had a ton of superstars in every single generation, from Wilt Chamberlain to Larry Bird to Michael Jordan, all the way to current face of the NBA Stephen Curry. We will never see these players again after they retire and should always appreciate their greatness. The current starting five of the Western Conference All-Stars this year was Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard. All of the players in the starting 5 are respectable stars on their team, the legends they will be compared to on this list isn’t a comparison for how they move on the court, it’s simply based on their affect on the court and how they produce, as well as their skill sets.

Stephen CurryJerry West

It’s hard to compare the greatest three-point shooter of all time to anyone, but a comparison with the logo is a great start. Stephen Curry, much like Jerry West is known for his unlimited range. Although the three-point line wasn’t implemented in the NBA until 1979, 5 years after West retired, the logo would’ve had many three-point field goals in his career because his range was so ahead of his time. Debatably, the most famous shot of Jerry West’s career, the 60-foot buzzer beater to send game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals into overtime, is a shot West, as well as Curry make look “Stephortless.”

 

 

The fact that Jerry West only played 2 of his 14 NBA seasons as a shooting guard and is considered a top 5 shooting guard of all time shows how much of a prolific shooter he was. In Stephen Curry’s scouting report coming out of Davidson, he was highly considered as an undersized shooting guard and a lot of scouts didn’t believe he could transition to an NBA point guard. Boy were they wrong, now he’s an MVP and one of the top point guards in NBA history. Even though West may not have had the handles that Curry has, their skillset outside of dribbling is almost uncanny. West’s highest scoring season (31.2 PPG) is less than a 1-point differential than Curry’s highest scoring season (*30.5 PPG). The career average of Assists Per Game by both of the guards is almost identical (West – 6.7, Curry – 6.8) as well. Curry may not have all the accolades that Jerry West has like 14x All-Star, Finals MVP and 6x 1st All-NBA Team Selection; but Curry isn’t that far behind, they both are 1x NBA Champions and he already has more MVPs than West and is well on his way to his second MVP with the career year he’s having.

 

Russell Westbrook – Nate “Tiny” Archibald

The athleticism along with the amazing ability that Russell Westbrook has on the court has never been seen before, the combination of skills that Westbrook possesses as a point guard with incredible playmaking and an assassin’s mentality to the basket can only be measured with Hall of Famer Nate “Tiny” Archibald. People have always been very skeptical with Westbrook’s style of play, thinking he is too selfish with the ball, but the triple-double leader of the last two years (*12 – 2016, 11 – 2015) has also been one of the top assist leaders each year too. Tiny had been criticized as well for his scoring ability as a point guard, as he led the NBA in points per game (34.0 PPG) in 1973, but much like Westbrook, was dropping dimes left and right. Leading the league in points in 1973 wasn’t enough for Tiny, where the same season he led the NBA in assists per game (11.4 APG) too. Tiny Archibald’s great pull up game is almost as impressive as Russell Westbrook’s mid range pull up that helped him lead the NBA in points per game last year (28.1).

 

On a rebounding standpoint in their careers, Archibald (2.3 RPG) isn’t anywhere near Westbrook (5.5 RPG) and Westbrook is only increasing his average (*7.5 RPG this season). Westbrook’s mentality as a point guard and production is the closest we’ve seen to Tiny’s since he retired in 1984, but Westbrook has already gotten his name in higher honors than Archibald. Archibald only has one more All-Star nod than Westbrook and his one NBA championship is more than Westbrook has in his career so far, losing his first appearance against the Miami Heat in 5 games in 2012.

 

Kobe Bryant Michael Jordan

As if we all didn’t see this one coming, the most identical game play in NBA history is Kobe and MJ. If you switched their jerseys you would never be able to tell the difference. Along with their style of play, Jordan and Bryant both have the “Killer Instinct” that every NBA fan says must be in a true winner. Just a couple of years ago Bryant surpassed Jordan in career points, to sit at 3rd All-Time. The Black Mamba has 10 total All-NBA first team selections, which is the same amount Air Jordan has. With Kobe’s career coming to an end, it’s unbelievable how close these two will finish in career categories together.

 

We all know Michael Jordan finished his career with 6 rings and Kobe will finish with 5 rings, in Kobe’s 1333 games played in his career he’s got *7016 rebounds, only 344 more than Jordan. Their assists total is close as well, where Bryant has 655 more dimes. Michael Jordan has acknowledged on multiple occasions how much he admires Kobe’s game and how similar their game play is. We’ll never see another Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, but much with how Jordan influenced Bryant’s game, it’s possible we could see another player with the same type of style and Killer Instinct as the Black Mamba with the influence he’s put on this generation.

Kevin Durant Elgin Baylor

One of the most forgotten greats is 11x All-Star Elgin Baylor. How could we forget about the first player in NBA history to score over 70 points in a game! Kevin Durant has shown his unbelievable ability to score with his 4 NBA scoring titles. Baylor has never led the league in scoring in the regular season, but throughout his 14 year career has a lot of accolades to back up his fantastic talent. Baylor (10) has double the amount of NBA 1st All-Team selections that Durant (5) has. Elgin Baylor was an above average rebounder (13.5 RPG); his career average is almost double the amount of Durant’s (7.0 RPG). We haven’t seen a 6’10+ player with the scoring ability of a shooting guard and we probably won’t for a while (excluding Kristaps Porzingis). Elgin Baylor had a scoring ability of a shooting guard as well, but was oversized (6’5) in his day to be a shooting guard. He also was so tough and had a great deal of strength to help him down low.

 

 

Kevin Durant’s prolific three-point shot is what will separate these two stars the most. Elgin Baylor was a good jump shooter, but never had the range of a Kevin Durant due to no three-point line. The two players career point averages are the exact same at 27.4 PPG. These two small forwards careers will most likely always be similar in acknowledgement, due to the bigger stars that have been more dominant during their careers. Durant’s career has been nothing short of legendary, but with LeBron James and Stephen Curry taking all of the spotlight with championships, Durant never gets enough credit. Elgin Baylor averaged 34+ Points Per Game for 3 straight seasons and people barely batted an eye since Wilt Chamberlain was averaging 38.4 PPG, 50.4 PPG and 44.8 PPG in those three seasons. Baylor’s career was remarkable, but Bill Russell and his Celtics took almost every championship during his time in the league and Wilt Chamberlain’s stats were so historic that it was hard to pay attention to anyone who didn’t score over 100 points in an NBA game.

Kawhi Leonard Scottie Pippen

One of the greatest defenders in NBA history and underrated athletes is Scottie Pippen. Always being the sidekick to Michael Jordan, Pippen rarely had any chances to take the star role in Chicago during his prime. Kawhi Leonard and Scottie Pippen are both forces to be reckoned with on defense. Pippen has earned 8 Defensive 1st All-NBA Team honors, while Leonard just earned his first one. Leonard is 24 and has many years to go in his NBA career, but has already gotten his first Defensive Player of The Year award, something Pippen was never able to accomplish. The great ability to be reliable on offense and be able to guard every position with ease on defense is something not many players outside of these two have been able to possess.

 

When Michael Jordan’s 6x championship squads would play, Scottie Pippen would always have the honor of guarding the best player on each team. Whether his matchup is Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler or even 250 pound Karl Malone; Pippen was always a hassle on defense. With the small ball team play in the league now, no matter the position; Leonard is always defending the best player as well. Pippen’s largest average in steals was 2.9 with Leonard on the other hand is 2.3. Kawhi Leonard hasn’t shown the NBA much, but has only played 5 seasons; he’s an NBA champion and Finals MVP. Pippen has played 17 seasons and got his first All-Star nod at the same age as Leonard got his first (24 years old). Only time will tell how well Leonard’s career will go and how close he can get to Scottie Pippen’s legacy.

* = Current Season

About Juwan M. Davis

Editor/Writer for NBALEAD. Born and raised in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Living in Los Angeles. Minnesota Timberwolves fan.
Twitter: @JuwanMalikDavis

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  1. Pingback: NBA Eastern All-Stars & Their Legendary Doppelgangers - NBALEAD

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