Christmas as a sports fan has always meant one thing: basketball. Christmas Day always brings the best games of the regular season, the perfect gift for those of us that eat too much and need to lay back in a food coma. But this year, it’s not basketball that’s on my mind; it’s the exhilarating, hilarious, epic new Star Wars, better known as the movie I have been waiting for my entire life. It’s been out for a week now, and I’ve seen it four times, which is to say, I love it.
But my love of Star Wars and my love of basketball aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, they’re not too different if you look closely enough, and that isn’t a Jedi mind trick. Three years ago, I compared NBA figures to Star Wars characters. At the time, I used everyone I could. Now, three years later, the NBA has changed, but more importantly, the galaxy has. There’s a new flock of heroes and villains to pick from, new comparisons to make, so let’s get right down to business and start the crawl!
* * If you have not seen Episode VII, this contains spoilers. You’ve been warned!! * *
Rey: Steph Curry: This one was the easiest. First of all, look at them: have you ever seen a superstar that looks like Steph Curry? No! Have you ever seen a Jedi that looks like Rey? No! He’s scrawny! She’s a girl! They’re already breaking stereotypes.
Both of them have incredible insticts and create from seemingly nothing. Rey turns a blown up Plan A into a trip on the Millennium Falcon and a race through Star Destroyer wreckage. Steph will be triple teamed, dribble around his back and make a three like it was nothing.
But most of all, both are simply naturals with unmatched ability. Steph is the best shooter in NBA history. Rey beat a Sith Lord and had to be reminded about The Force, it felt so natural to her. Neither Earth nor the Galaxy has ever seen anyone like either one of them, and now that they’re here, who knows if they can be stopped?
Finn: LeBron James: Finn and LeBron’s greatest attribute is their loyalty. Well, at least it is now. LeBron had that turn to the Dark Side (read: Miami), but he’s back home. Finn, for his part, was a Stormtrooper but now looks to be a key member of the Resistance.
There’s something naiive about LeBron, how he assumed people would understand his move to Miami and then forgive him just years later. Finn figures (rightfully so) that The Reliance will be accept him as good right after a lifetime of working for the First Order, but he’ll do whatever he can to lend a hand. He’ll run after Kylo Ren without a weapon, invade an enemy base, grab a lightsaber, whatever.
They trust their instincts, and it gets them in trouble sometimes. For LeBron, that means passing a little too much. For Finn, that means entering Starkiller Base without a hint of a plan to save the Galaxy. At the end of the day, though, they’ll find a way, by trusting their gut and helping the ones they love.
Poe Dameron: Kristaps Porzingis: Has there ever been a cockier rookie in the NBA, let alone a Latvian? He was booed when he was drafted, and now, he’s the talk of New York. He did it by punishing teams, mostly because he’s 7-feet-tall and can knock down shots anywhere and posterize your team’s best defender with his eyes closed. Poe does the same to the First Order, weaving his way through Tie Fighters and always finding his mark with his blasters. And he does it all with a smirk and a smile. Kylo Ren’s just another guy to talk back to for Poe, just like a last second shot is nothing for the Zinger.
BB-8: Russell Westbrook: Both of these guys are like puppies. They have limitless enthusiasm, speeding from adventure to adventure. There’s an innocence to them, like they haven’t seen defeat enough to know better than to ever think of giving up.
Maz Kanata: Brad Stevens: There’s a genius to Brad Stevens. He knows how to manage personalities, push them to their peak. That’s Maz’s role in The Force Awakens. She gets Rey to realize her potential, and convinces Finn, after some trial and error, to join the Resistance for good. Neither of them have advantages on paper – Isiah Thomas vs. Steph Curry? Rey vs. Kylo Ren? – but they both find a way, like great coaches do.
Kylo Ren: Kobe Bryant: First thing’s first: Kobe is a villain. His retirement tour is so pathetic that it’s made him a sympathetic figure for some, but Kobe will always be the NBA’s antihero. He plays like he’s tapping into the Dark Side – with anger. Yet Kobe’s entire career has been built around becoming Michael Jordan. It’s been his dream since he was a boy, and it dictates everything he does. Kylo Ren’s MJ is Darth Vader, so much so that he literally prays to him. Neither are original but both are undeniably good at being bad. The only difference is that Kobe has never killed his father…but I wouldn’t put it past him.
General Hux: Demarcus “BOOOOOGIE!!” Cousins: Hux doesn’t have The Force, and he isn’t physically imposing at all. Still, he’s terrifying. There’s a screw loose somewhere, and there’s nothing I would put past the guy. Boogie Cousins is easily the craziest player in the NBA right now. He’s the only reason to watch the Kings, because you never know, he might just rip a ref’s arm off and use it to beat his coach George Karl to death.
Captain Phasma: Tim Duncan: What is Captain Phasma? A human? An alien? A clone? What’s her story? What does she do? All of these questions also apply to Tim Duncan, who has not aged since his rookie year.
Well, I’ve been talking for too long. Go watch The Force Awakens again. It’s been a couple hours. And maybe when you’re done, catch a basketball game as well. It’s not quite the Galaxy that’s up for grabs, but a championship banner is a pretty close second.