So basically, we'll be saying: (SOCCER PLAYER X) is the (NBA PLAYER Y) of the World Cup.
We'll start off slow:
Diego Maradona and Pele (constant argument to the extent of the "Michael Jordan or Kobe" argument) are the Michael Jordan(s) of Soccer. Back in the day they ruled the game and were leaps and bounds ahead of their peers.
David Beckham is the Reggie Miller of Soccer. A sweet shot that no one can quite explain. Not that great of an all around player but will go down as one of Soccer's best players.
Ok you get the point. Using ESPN's 50 best players of the World Cup (written in March before the World Cup started, by the way), my co worker and I discussed who was the NBA comparison so that an average sports fan just getting into soccer could better comprehend the players he or she was watching at ungodly hours of the morning due to the time difference.
- As I said, this list was prepared in March, way before the World Cup had started.
- Soccer is quite different from basketball. Great soccer players know how to dribble and shoot and pass. So it'd be easy to just compare them all to the point guards of the league. I tried not to do that.
- I'll be comparing styles of play and/or popularity and/or personal characteristics and/or career similarities, NOT ALL FOUR. This is just for the NBA fan to get a better grasp of what kind of Soccer player so and so is. I'll explain the choice in a few sentences, plus the scouting report from the ESPN website of the Soccer player.
- If you disagree, let me know about it! I'm still a rookie soccer fan.
1. Lionel Messi, Argentina Forward - LeBron James, TEAM UNKNOWN
This is if you're from the LeBron James is the greatest basketball player. Lionel Messi is simply the best soccer player in the world right now. He isn't scoring out of his mind because his coach (Maradona/"Jordan") has him playing out of position. "Can break down any defense off the dribble and conjure something out of nothing."
2. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal Midfielder - Kobe Bryant, Lakers
One of the best in the world, plus he is considered selfish, arrogant and cocky. The team is all about him etc. I'll admit I'm biased but Kobe Bryant will always have that tag and for the most part it was true a couple years ago (and flashes here and there including game 7 of the finals!). "Prolific goal scorer, specializes in long-range free kicks and can shoot from anywhere."
3. Wayne Rooney, England Forward - Brandon Roy, Blazers/Ron Artest, Lakers
Powerful build and a great scorer with good intelligence. He also is temperamental so that's where the Ron Artest comparison comes from. "Complete striker who can play anywhere across the front three."
4. Kaka, Brazil Midfielder - Kevin Durant, Thunder
Another great scorer, just not at the level of Ronaldo or Messi. He's older than Durant so he doesn't have the upside but right now, he's the Kevin Durant of the World Cup, on a team that's predicted by most to win the World Cup. "Artistic playmaker who can break down defenses via dribble (or pass)."
5. Xavi, Spain Midfielder - Chris Paul, Hornets
Great field vision and great passer. Can pass from long range or up close. "The pulse of the Spanish team" as is Chris Paul is for the Hornets. Can also control the ball and isn't turnover prone.
6. Didier Drogba, Ivory Coast Forward - Lamar Odom, Lakers
Remember my disclaimer? Am I saying Lamar is the 6th best player in the NBA as Drogba is the 6th best Soccer player? No. Similarities, great player, just doesn't always bring it. He can score any kind of goal as Lamar can post up, hit a 3 or drive the lane... when he puts his mind to it. Also think of Baron Davis from around 2006. "Practically unplayable when he puts his mind to it."
7. Andres Iniesta, Spain Midfielder - Rajon Rondo, Celtics
Straight up playmaker. Even has a cool nickname: "El Illusionista" (The Illusionist). He's not that tall but has great ball control and vision of the field. Can take players off the dribble and always looks to pass, sometimes to a fault. "Very difficult to dispossess and can also run at defenders and take them off the dribble."
8. Fernando Torres, Spain Forward - Pau Gasol, Lakers
Good all around player with good technique. But regarded as soft and tries to avoid contact. "Can sometimes be thrown off his game if defenders dish out the rough treatment and the refs are lax in calling fouls." Pau may have shaken that "soft" tag these past couple years but he can still fall prey to overzealous defense if the foul isn't called.
9. Steven Gerrard, England Midfielder - Kevin Garnett, Timberwolves (early 2000s)
Aggressive tackler with good offense. Dynamic player who can play all over the field. "Struggles at times to shed man markers." Can't take a player off the dribble like KG couldn't. Don't get me wrong, KG could go on one but he would use his post moves, no cross overs.
10. Michael Essien, Ghana Midfielder - Allen Iverson, 76ers (2000-2003)
Great offense but also great defense. "Covers an incredible amount of territory with boundless energy." Essien was injured before the world cup even started so that's why you haven't heard much about him. Ghana is still in the tournament though.
11. David Villa, Spain Forward - Dwyane Wade, Heat
Great player who can flat out score. Finds openings and has the speed to get into the holes in the defense. Great finisher, won't miss too many shots from up close. "Predatory goal scorer who constantly finds openings in the defense and penalty box."
12. Frank Ribery, France Midfielder - Steve Nash, Suns
Known for making plays for his teammates who simply works hard. Takes over as France's franchise player after Zidane as Nash took over from uhh, Stephon Marbury? "Clever playmaker... loves to run at defenders and get to the byline."
13. Samuel Eto'o, Cameroon Forward - Manu Ginobili, Spurs
One of the older players and has maybe lost a step or two, but can still bring it every game. "Often glides into the box and finishes calmly. Presses defenders high all across the field." Fourth world cup at 28 years old because he played his first one when he was 14! Ginobili can still take over games this late in his career and moves swiftly through defenders.
14. Luis Fabiano, Brazil Forward - Jason Richardson, Suns
He's a streaky "explosive" player who "can score in bunches" but he's inconsistent. This reminds me of Jason Richardson who on any night can light a team up for 30 points but is usually going to average around half that.
15. Iker Casillas, Spain Goalie - Dwight Howard, Magic
Didn't see that one coming, did you? Our first defensive player goes to the top defensive player in the NBA. Maybe not quite as physical as Dwight but "possesses superior reflexes and positioning. Composed and deals solidly with aerial crosses" so perhaps there's a little Tim Duncan and Emeka Okafor in there, but regardless, best goalie therefore, Dwight (Defensive player of the year 2 years in a row).
16. Cesc Fabregas, Spain Midfielder - Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets
He's a great player and he demands the ball. Good all around game but "can be a little careless with turnovers at times." Carmelo has averaged 3+ turnovers a game for 6 of his 7 year career (2.7 TOs per in 05/06) but still one of the game's best players.
17. Gianluigi Buffon, Italy Goalie - Tim Duncan, Spurs
Ok so the next defensive player goes to one of the best defenders, but here's why. He's 32 and still playing at a high level. "Veteran with sound positional sense. Solid shot stopper, rarely makes a mistake." That sounds very Tim Duncan to me.
18. Dani Alves, Brazil Defender - Rashard Lewis, Magic / Amare Stoudemire, Suns
A defender compared to Rashard and Amare? Hear me out, like my disclaimer said, these aren't fool proof. He's a defender, but he's a scoring defender. "Superior set-piece delivery" and "defensively vulnerable at times and can be caught out of position or muscled off the ball." Great player with those defensive asterisks, sounds like Amare with a Rashard jumpshot to me.
19. Nemanja Vidic, Serbia Defender - Andrei Kirilenko, Jazz (2004-2006)
Takes pride in keeping his man in front of him as Andrei did when he was the best player on the post Stockton/Malone Jazz. But he was also well rounded enough to be a force on offense and could pretty much fill a box score up. "Owns the box with his aerial ability, both defensively and on offensive set pieces. Can be vulnerable to pacy forwards with strong dribbling skills."
20. Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands Midfielder - Deron Williams, Jazz
Short player with good vision and can shoot from distance, prefers to be a playmaker. "World-class passing game does provide the glue that will hold together the 10 players surrounding him."
21. Maicon, Brazil Defender - Trevor Ariza, Rockets
Well rounded player. Defender who can play offense as well, but primarily a defender (Ariza on the Lakers, I suppose). "Strong defensive play with powerful surging runs down the right flank. No real weaknesses."
22. Frank Lampard, England Midfielder - Tony Parker, Spurs
Can score and pass off to teammates for assists. Impressive finisher for a midfielder as is Parker with his teardrop runner over bigs. "doesn't do any one thing exceptionally well but is above average in all areas."
23. Andrea Pirlo, Italy Midfielder - Chauncey Billups, Nuggets
Playmaking midfielder who can "control the tempo of a game and generally delivers superb set pieces." Not so much a scorer like Chauncey, Pirlo looks to set up other teammates but can hit from long range as Billups can.
24. Carlos Tevez, Aregentina Forward - Russell Westbrook, Thunder
Big ball of energy. I debated putting Leandro Barbosa here but he has fallen off a little bit from prior years. Tevez can score some spectacular goals as Westbrook can throw down some game changing dunks. Both are scorers and both have speed and hustle.
25. Robin Van Persie, Netherlands Forward - Danny Granger, Pacers
A good scorer with some well rounded abilities but needs work "on his heading ability but possesses every other tool in pace, finishing and long-range shooting." Reminds me of Granger because although he's the face of the Pacers right now, he's got some work to do to become a franchise guy.
26-50 in the works!