Tennis Stars’ NBA Equivalents

Kurt —  September 7, 2007

Sitting watching another night of the US Open tennis tournament—seeing Andy Roddick play the best tennis he could and still get swept by Roger Federer — I started thinking about what tennis player equated to what NBA player. So, for fun I started a little list. It’s some harmless early September NBA blues fun (we’ll save discussing power struggles in the house of Buss until next week).

This is just a start, if you have suggestions put them in the comments and I’ll move the best ones up to the main post.

Roger Federer = Tim Duncan.
Well-rounded games with seemingly no weakness. Incredible consistency against the bottom feeders or the top tier. The ability to step up under pressure. And winning titles, just winning titles — all while not showing off or acting like a pampered ass. Sometimes I want to hate the guy, but I just have to respect them. (By the way, I think Payton Manning could fit in here perfectly and make it a trio.)

Several people (starting with Lakerfan, I think) have chimed in that comparing Duncan to Federer is a disservice to Fed. Maybe true. While Jordan is the best comparison, I was going with active players. But the point that Federer is an MJ, a Tiger Woods, the dominant person in the sport is a valid one.

Rafael Nadal = Dwyane Wade.
Young, fun to watch aggressive player who wins a title (or for Nadal, a few majors) but who’s style and energy put such a strain on their bodies you sometimes wonder how long they can keep it up.

Novak Djokovic = LeBron James. Loaded with talent and everyone knows it’s just a matter of time until he wins the big one. He’s beaten the big two before, but never in a major moment when it was all on the line.

Serena Williams = Shaq O’Neal. Off the court interest take focus away from the on the court game, and all that can lead to weight/training issues. But when focused and in shape nobody can stop them.

Andy Roddick = Karl Malone. Hall of Fame, unquestioned talents who (as Bill Dwyre put brilliantly in the LA Times yesterday) have one fatal flaw — being born in the same era as the greatest player in the history of the game. Said player becomes their nemesis.

UPDATE: mookiebrainlock suggests John McEnroe = Rasheed Wallace. Does this mean Rasheed has a series of clever but overplayed American Express ads in his future? Probably not.

Also, nobody seems to love the Roddick/Malone comparison, with Jeremy rightly pointing out that Roddick does have a Major under his belt. (Well, you don’t really wear belts in tennis, but you get the idea.) He suggests the better match is Scottie Pippen, “Loads of talent, just not quite as good as the rest of the superstars.” Burningjoe suggested maybe Reggie Miller is a better example (although that presents the same championship issue as Malone). Roddick is the one I had the hardest time with (save Kobe, I never found a match I liked there).

UPDATE 2: Jake Oakley throws out an interesting one: Kobe Bryant = Boris Becker.

Sounds a little odd maybe, but if you think about it … Both one three big ones early in their career, they were young superstars Becker with his Wimbledon championships at 17 and 18 and Kobe with Shaq. They had great coaches ( I can’t think of the name of Becker’s though) and both of them had a huge sex-affair. Becker’s 5 seconds with Angela Ermakowa are famous over in Germany.

And from the good people at SLAM online, Mike Miller = Maria Sharapova. I think Miller may actually fiddle with his hair more.

36 responses to Tennis Stars’ NBA Equivalents

  1. And John Mc Enroe = Rasheed Wallace.
    Always bitching to the referees !!

  2. Comparing Roddick to Malone is an insult. Roddick has won a championship.

    Roddick is more like Scottie Pippen. Loads of talent, just not quite as good as the rest of the Superstars.

  3. Wouldnt Roddick be more equivalent to Stark or even Reggie Miller?

  4. Marat Safin – Kobe Bryant

    The most talented player in the world. Highest arsenal of different shots. Hot headed, easily steamed up, involved in constant controversy of some sort, and never understood.

    This is absolutely the best correlation.

    In response to the others, Roddick is not like Scottie Pippen. Pippen was around for years and had plenty of talent. Roddick is not a talent, rather a beast. He consistently loses to the smart talented players. Roddick is more like Allen Iverson, great player based on personal advantages of size/speed but will never be “the best”.

  5. The difference is Safin is inconsistent and has no majors to his credit, but he is capable of beating anyone on any given day. To me, Safin is more Vince Carter.

  6. Duncan was once compared to Sampras. what does that say? Easily the best of this era. Roddick gets compared to Malone and Pippen but McEnroe gets “Sheed? What’s up with that? How about Sir Charles and John? Still no ring but at least he’s better than the other two. Djokovic and Lebron…uhh who? What about Nash and Chang? haha. Who’s the doubles champ? You can put Kobe there cos he can’t win without Shaq.

  7. I’d say Agassie is like Pippen.. Great player, versatile (good on all courts), great base line defensive player, but never quite as good as Sampras (jordan).

  8. Roddick’s not nearly versatile enough to be Pippen. I think Miller is a great analogy. He’s a player with one special skill that makes him a superstar, yet in the end he’s just not as good as the top dogs. (The major thing is going to be an issue for pretty much anyone you pick just because more tennis players have them–or used to, at least–than top-flight basketball players have rings.)

    Federer might work for Duncan in terms of his demeanor and such, but he reminds me much more of Jordan (more from the first championship run) in terms of the actual style of play. Pulls insane shots out of nowhere, but he does so in a way that makes you wonder why more people don’t do it. Everything feels totally natural.

  9. I find your comparisons interesting. Being a big Roddick fan and also a Utah Jazz fan and inherently a Karl Malone fan, I know that being fans of both has been mostly frustrating. Sucks when you’re good and you play your best and still lose. But unlike Malone ever did, I think Roddick will find a way to win another major.

  10. Arthur Ashe = Magic Johnson for obvious off the court reasons.

  11. you cant compare federer to anyone in a team sport. period. duncan isn’t an apt comparison because duncan can’t do EVERYTHING – he can’t shoot threes, he can’t guard the point, he can’t lead a fast break, etc. but federer, and this is why no team comparison works, literally has every tool one can have in his sport – serve, return, forehand, backhand, offense, defense, dropshot, volley, overhead, footwork, mental game, each in thier infinite and subtle variations. im not trying to lick the dude’s boots or anything, but he’s been in the past nine major finals and won seven of them, and he’s about to cruise through the us open. basketball players by nature are not developed this way (tennis players, by the way, aren’t necessarily either), and while the duncan comparison is worthy on a lot of levels, roger is toooooo complete a player. jordan is the only close comparison, as far as an inside/outside, offense/defense, mental/physical balance goes.

  12. i agree with the safin-kobe correlation and i’ll add to it – they both won titles early in their career before their primes, and now in their prime can’t seem to get back over the hump.

  13. Federer is Jordan! How’d you miss that one Kurt?! Duncan is more like an Agassi or someone else who has won ALOT, but hes not on par with Federer. Thinks about that commercial with Tiger, Federer, and Henry. If you threw Duncan in there, a lot of people would question that selection (as they should be questioning Henry’s selection, but then again most people in American dont know who the hell Henry is). Ask anyone what basketball player should be in there, and they’d pick MJ. He is the definition of a guy many people hated, but had to respect (Pacers fans, Jazz fans, Seattle Fans, etc). game, set, match!
    by the way, i really really hope Nadal continues to deny Federer domination on all courts, and improves enough to beat Federer on the hard courts too.

  14. No no no — McEnroe is Charles Barkley. I will defend that to my death.

    By the way, Martina Navratilova is Jo Noah…

  15. Just to spin it off a little bit…

    How about Sue Bird as Martina Hingis? – a darling, a beauty and a champion…

    Venus Williams as Kevin Garnett? – stellar play, perfectionist, highly competitive and extremely successful. KG has no rings though… but some MVPs.

    Oh and the John McEnroe debate – will never end. On the bitching, more like a combo of Rodman, Sheed and Sir Charles. However, Rodman takes the advantage… its the rings baby. Oh Sheed has one too.

  16. so who gets andre agassi?
    how about Bjiorn Borge?…jimmy conners?
    wasn’t there a guy whose only weapon was a 100plus mile per hour serve? (kind of like a Gerry Coonie).
    that’s it…next we can compare boxers to b’ball players.
    …and after that…
    olympic speed skaters…


    mini golf…

  17. comparing federer to duncan is an insult to fed. Federer doesn’t lose and by the end of his career will have shattered every record in the sport. Duncan is if you’re being generous the best power forward today. 2 of his championships are asterisks anyway.

  18. Safin won one major early in his career (2000 US) and one major recently (2005 Australian). Kobe is also consistently great, while Safin’s greatness now occurs rarely, comes out of nowhere, and is feared even by Federer. He’s the only person capable of beating Federer on hard courts in a major on a day when Federer is playing well. I think the best NBA comparison to Safin would be Andrew Toney.

    I like the Wade-Nadal comparison. If former world #1 Marcelo Rios had ever won any major, you could compare him to Kobe. Both guys extremely talented, both quite arrogant, both occasionally tanked deliberately on the big stage (allegedly).

  19. Kobe Bryant = Boris Becker

    Sounds a little odd maybe, but if you think about it … Both one three big ones early in their career, they were young superstars becker with his wimbledon champion ships with 17 and 18 and kobe with shaq. They had great coaches ( I can’t think of the name of Becker’s though) and both of them had a huge sex-affair. Becker’s 5 seconds with Anna Ermackova are famous over in Germany. I also dont think a major equals an NBA championship because you can win only one NBA Ring a year but 4 majors … Thats the best one I could think of. Also, John Stockton = Ivan Lendl, well Ivan Lendl = anyone who tried to win something real special and failing freaking seven times in the final

  20. the other Stephen September 8, 2007 at 9:40 am

    6. I’d say Allen Iverson and Michael Chang fit together better.

  21. the other Stephen September 8, 2007 at 9:41 am

    but Chang was so much of a baseline player that Nash would make sense too.

  22. 18. My bad on Safin winning majors, I forgot he had.

  23. By the way, props to Novak Djokovic who had Robert DiNero in his family box at the Semis.

  24. Bjorn Borg and steve Nash…quiet leaders, and the hair!(at least Nash a 2 yrs ago)

  25. I also disagree with the Kobe/Marat comparison. Kobe has always been reserved with the media, and more respected than liked among his peers. Marat is often a jokester in press conferences and is popular in the locker room. In fact sometimes he says things that no one understands, kind of like … Shaq, maybe.

  26. What kind of self-respecting basketball fun knows this much about tennis? (I’m kidding of course, but still a little strange)

  27. cabeza de knuckle September 9, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    duncan is like borg. a winner but boring. dominant and dull. f

    ederer is of course mj. the game seems effortless to them. they have another gear when the game is on the line that other players don’t even have in their dreams.

    andy roddick = corey magette physical gifts but limited in the style of play. 2 dimensional in a 3 d world

    nadal = le bron physically more mature than other players much older than them.

    steve nash = carlos moya crafty veterans who get the job done

  28. If Andy Roddick is Karl Malone then Roger Federer is definitely Michael Jordan. Neither Andy or Karl could get past the other to win a championship. (Besides Andy’s win in 2003.)

  29. Ion Tiriak = Becker coach/guru of the early years.

  30. “What kind of self-respecting basketball fan knows this much about tennis? (I’m kidding of course, but still a little strange)”

    Well Bobby, I enjoy that game as well next to basketball. It is probably the only “watchable” sport on TV other than NBA basketball. Why? Because basketball and Tennis are offensive games. Unlike Soccer (football), Hockey, BaseBall and American Football, the game is won by the team that gives up the least points, not the team that garners the most.

    If defense was the name of the game, I say we play chess. Its actually like a block-recovery-fastbreak-alleyoop play in the NBA. As the other player thinks he has an easy lay-up, you go block his shot, your PG recovers the loose ball, runs the break, throws up the ball off the backboard and you go up for the dunk. Honestly, Chess is more exciting than Soccer.

  31. Yea thats him, thanks Diabolo

  32. There is no equivalent for Federer. He is without a doubt the most dominant, on par with Jordan, but does not have the demeaner of Jordan. Federer is ultra competitive but he does have that “I will destroy anything and everything” vibe. He is always gracious and humble, not something associated with Jordan. Woods is more comparable.

  33. roddick is more like Safin
    for both of theri temper is bad

  34. to the guy who said Safin has no majors, he has won both the Aussie and US Open.