Penny. Kobe. Vince Carter. LeBron. Grant Hill. T-Mac. Kidd. These guys were labeled as the next Jordan or Magic Johnson at one point until their careers played out and we had to resort to this: “Let them be themselves.” It makes sense, but why do the comparisons come up in the first place? I know these discussions are brought up sometimes and people will dismiss them. Understandably so, the debates grow tiresome and repetitive. The search will continue, but not many people question why the issue even arises.
The topic has covered Jordan and Magic. The last one is Larry Bird. There are superstars who have some semblance in their games to mimic Michael and Magic, but it is rare to see someone mimicking Larry Legend. Seriously, who can you think of, who is currently in the NBA, that is anywhere near Bird in terms of skills and numbers? And no, the player does not have to be a white American. Get over that.
There is only one current player who fits that Bird mold and that is Dirk Nowitzki. That’s a stretch, too. Even with that said, he is still not that close to Larry because he does not rebound and play make for others well. Don’t believe me? Compare their career rebound and assists averages. No disrespect to Dirk because he’s a super elite efficient player. And no, there is no black Larry Bird either. If there was, I would have named him quickly.
Usually when looking for that Bird level type player, here are the things to examine:
The player is a forward.
He has handles.
He has court vision.
Great shooter from anywhere (can hit nearly 40 percent of three pointers attempted)
Punish you at the line converting near 88 percent.
He can rebound averaging 9+ boards per game.
Can score 25+ points at will.
Find me that player exhibiting those skills (any race) and that’s probably the “next” Bird. But like Magic once said, “There will never ever be another Larry Bird.” He is right thus far. Besides Nowitzki (and he’s not close), there is no one else. With Magic and Jordan, a list can be made. Why is that?
The fascination of comparing players to masters before them is simple – “My old sports hero is better than your current sports hero.” Ego. It’s all good. Bring it. Just prepare to be disappointed if they cannot match up. We compare because we love to find holes, or weaknesses, in people’s games. Then we end it off by saying, “He doesn’t compare.” This was obvious during the MJ versus Kobe debates in early 2000s. The arguments were stupid back then and now because MJ is obviously superior – just lame to argue.
A better, and smarter, alternative is to compare players from the same era because they actually played against each other during their primes such as Wilt versus Russell, Jordan versus NBA, Magic versus Bird, Kobe versus Wade, Chris Paul versus Derrick Rose, Tim Duncan versus Shaq, etc.
Is there a next Bird currently anywhere? Nope. The closest one is Dirk.