Anything you can do, I can do better
As an old commercial campaign suggested, many players grew up in the 1990s wanting to be ‘Like Mike’. For better or for worse, this led to an avalanche of players who were put forward as the next big thing, or ‘Heir Jordan’. This generation of smooth, athletic scoring guards was led by none other than Kobe Bryant, who reminded many fans of Jordan even in his mannerisms and fist pump celebrations.
Beyond these two legends, there were other similar stars who co-opted the style and flair of their elders, in support of the old saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. As the game evolves, young fans get the opportunity to learn and to adapt aspects of their favorite star’s game. Just as older fans were certain that no one would replicate Dennis Rodman’s complete focus on defense and rebounding, Ben Wallace came along for the Detroit Pistons. NBA enthusiasts were sure that LeBron James’ blend of strength, speed and hops will not be seen again, but draft experts have began to anoint Zion Williamson as the next LeBron.
Allen Iverson and Isaiah Thomas: Both were tiny guards who had no fear, thriving off drives to the basket and their ability to make ridiculous shots. With their handles and reading of angles as well as a willingness to absorb contact, they have become iconic ‘little man’ scorers in the NBA.
Isiah Thomas and Chris Paul: The elder Thomas was a small but hard-nosed guard with the ability to score, but he often preferred to set up plays for his teammates and to play defense. Paul shows many of the same tendencies, including his excellent but functional ball-handling ability.
Gilbert Arenas and Damian Lillard: When the game is on the line, Portland fans know that ‘Lillard Time’ is on, as he confidently bombs away from deep to seal the win. A decade ago, it was ‘Agent Zero’ or ‘Hibachi’ lighting up arenas and striking fear with his clutch daggers from three.
Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Stephen Curry: Youngsters often swear that Curry’s game is truly unique in the NBA, but old-heads remember when a young star by the name of Abdul-Rauf took the League by storm with his crazy handles, quick release and ability to pull-up on anyone at any distance.