From a global perspective, the NBA is the most formidable sporting brand in the world.
The competition generates worldwide sports stars who earn millions of dollars each year. How does this compare to the NRL?
The NRL is a 26-game seasoned event, with 16 teams all gunning for the opportunity to play in the grand final. But the sport has little global reach. Is there any basis for comparison?
Just like the NBA, the NRL have some incredible and superb athletes. Strong, fast, agile and smart – the modern day version of an NRL player is every bit equal to an elite basketball athlete.
What if you took, the best five current players in the NRL and compared them to the best five current NBA players, what would happen? Are they at all similar?
Kobe Bryant – Cooper Cronk
On one hand, you have Kobe Bryant – the ‘Black Mamba’ and the cerebral assassin. Bryant is known for his ultra-focus towards his game and never leaving any stone unturned. He may come off cocky, but his passion runs deeper than meets the eye.
Who else in the NRL lives for the crunch moments other than Cooper Cronk?
Cronk is the maestro, Mr Professional, the general and the ultimate halfback in today’s game. Cooper is known for how professional his approach in regards to any game can be. He is a no nonsense type of player, one who shows professionalism off and on the field.
His mental approach to the game can only be matched by Kobe, and it also helps that they both live for the clutch times.
LeBron James – Greg Inglis
No matter who wins the MVP awards in the NBA, there’s a sinking feeling that although you may be the Most Valuable Player for that season, you are still second to LeBron James.
Built like an NFL line-backer, with the speed of a running back, hands like a wide receiver and the smarts of a quarterback, LeBron James is a controlled freight train who only has one destination on the court – and that typically ends up being the hoop.
His incredible physical stature makes him a nightmare to guard. Blessed with skill, size and speed, LeBron gets it done with just pure talent.
His match in the NRL? Two letters come to mind: G-I.
Greg Inglis is the prototype figure of an NRL player. He’s big, strong, fast, agile and has the smarts to match. He is the most feared player in open space and possibly the most devastating ball carrier to play the game.
GI will always be noted as the best player in the game, no matter who else wins the Dally M or Golden Boot. His frame and skill level keep him on par with LeBron James, and with overall dominance in their given sports – just as lethal as each other.
Kevin Durant – Cameron Smith
When you look at the two names, you can draw a particular similarity that may stand out as soon as you do so. Both have rather small frames for their given position. They are both very thin players, given the nature of their physical positions. Both players may look like accountants, but they don’t play like accountants.
Kevin Durant is the current MVP of the NBA. He plays in arguably the most heated position of the NBA, constantly guarding great players (i.e. LeBron, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George).
Not only does he hold his own on the offensive side, he can also take them on physically. Kevin is as cool as customer as you will see in the NBA, to match his hugely high humility levels.
Although LeBron may outshine him, he will never go under as a top-three player in the NBA – the same to be said about Smith.
Cameron Smith makes 40 tackles every year, handles the ball more than any other player in the league. Not only does he take duties of goal kicking (and kicks for touch), he controls the ruck and feeds off forwards twice his size.
He plays well above his weight, but goes about it for the ‘team’ aspect. Cool, calm and collected, Cameron never looks flustered and is as humble a character as the NRL has possibly seen. He is always overlooked as the best player in the game because he isn’t an outside back doing flashy things, but when the hard work is needed, in both sports, Cameron and Kevin get it done.
Chris Paul – Johnathan Thurston
When you watch Chris Paul play basketball, he literally has the ball on a string. He does whatever he wants with the ball and it always looks so smooth. Notably a great ball handler, he barks instructions, has ice cold range around the paint and all the tricks in the bag to get his team the victories they need.
Remind you of anyone?
Johnathan “JT” Thurston is as creative as it comes in the NRL. He looks like his vision is in slow motion, while he has all the time in the world to think of the next play. In real time it looks so risky, but so natural to JT.
He can lead a team from a ditch onto glory within a matter of seconds. Both players seemingly have all the skills in the world, and both lead two high-octane sporting teams.
Both the best in their position, high skilled, very talkative among their players and the go to player when magic is needed. JT will go down as the greatest halfback ever once he retires and CP3 – although needs to win at least one title – may go down as Magic Johnson’s successor, if it all goes to plan.
Derrick Rose – Jarryd Hayne
Last but not least, the fifth comparison. Now, the intriguing thing with this comparison is that both have serious talent. Both of these players can change a game on any given night, but due to injuries and lack of form, they very rarely showcase just how good they can possibly be.
Derrick Rose was the 2010-2011 NBA MVP, in just his third professional season, and was the youngest to do so. On his day, there isn’t a point guard who can guard the athleticism and quickness of Derrick Rose.
Translate that to the NRL, Jarryd Hayne is a mystery. Having won the Dally M Medal in 2009, after an assault of great games leading the Parramatta Eels to the grand final, Hayne is capable of producing some average performances.
Jarryd Hayne went missing after 2009 and has only hit form in 2014. To date, he is arguably the most dangerous attacking player in the NRL. Size and strength, with a dangerous dose of speed, when the Hayne Plane is in full effect he can uplift the Eels to seemingly high odds.
Both players have unmatched skills, but their full potential hasn’t been seen yet. But when they do, I see many more MVP and Dally M medals on the horizon.
So maybe comparing only five players in each code isn’t an exact comparison, but their elite players have so much more in common with our elite players than first thought.