Mirror Images -- Part 1
For women’s basketball fans, the names Diana, Tamika, Sue, Candace, Cappie, Maya and Brittney immediately bring to mind images of dominance.
But for basketball fans that don’t follow the women’s game closely -- whether at the college or pro level -- the responsibility falls on those in the know to shed some light on the games and personality behind these popular names.
What is the best way to describe Tamika Catchings? Do you start with her relentless passion, and how the intensity of the game rises every time she steps on the court? Or do you begin with her four Defensive Player of the Year awards and reputation as the league's lockdown defender? What about her leadership, as she propelled the Indiana Fever to new heights last year? What about her finally capturing that elusive championship after a decade in the league?
You can do all of that.
Or you can talk about it in a whole other way. You can look to a well-known player that embodies Tamika’s hunger, drive and determination. A player like, say, Kevin Garnett.
The point is that ballers are ballers, whether they are male or female. And, often times, the best comparisons break gender lines. What follows is a breakdown of some WNBA players that have mirror images in the NBA game, both past and present.
To put it simply: the quintessential point guard. Both Bird and Stockton run their teams with precision, they know exactly how to set up their teammates, they know where and when to get them the ball to make plays, they can make every pass and, when called upon, they can score for themselves.
But’s it’s more than just that. Both Bird and Stockton have an innocent, choir boy or girl look to them, but double as cold-blooded killers on the court. When the game is on the line, both players have responded by hitting clutch shots throughout their careers.
While they don’t rank among the league leaders in scoring, don’t leave them open in the closing seconds of a tight game. They will bury the shot, and you along with it.
Los Angeles Lakers
“Lethal” is probably the best word to describe both of these extraordinary players -- though we could also go with “perfectionists” or “relentless” or “unstoppable” or, simply, “champions.”
They've both won scoring titles and headlined All-Star Games. They're each virtual locks for All-NBA/WNBA teams every year and on the shortlist for MVP and Finals MVP. And they're both no strangers to winning -- five NBA titles for Kobe and two WNBA titles for Diana, to go along with Taurasi's slew of international titles in the Euroleague and Russian leagues.
Kobe and Diana are two of the most fierce competitors their respective league has ever seen. There is no such thing as attack mode with them -- that is just their day-to-day. Kobe calls this #mambamentality. We’ll use another Kobe Twitter hashtag for this pairing: #differentanimalsamebeast.
Los Angeles Sparks
Versatility is the name of the game with these two players. Candace and LeBron can do anything on the court and often do in order to help their teams win.
During her college years at Tennessee, Candace was listed on the roster as G, F, C. It’s one thing to say that a player can do it all, it’s another when your bio lists you at every position in basketball. Yet, the bio was accurate. Candace can initiate the offense at the point or post up on the block. She can grab a rebound, bring the ball up the court herself (no need for an outlet pass) and either set up the offense or run the fast break. She can finish by herself -- pull-up jumper, crossover dribble and drive to the basket -- or set up a teammate for an open look. Sound familiar?
LeBron has been called a point forward and a power guard. Either way you mash up the words, it means that he cannot be defined as easily as others. The best thing to call both Candace and LeBron is an all-around player. They can play 1-through-5 on both offense and defense. They both have similar hardware for their individual accomplishments -- Rookie of the Year, MVP, All NBA/WNBA, All-Defense and more. Both are Olympic champions, but LeBron has an NBA title (won last season), while Candace is still in search of her first WNBA title.
New York Liberty
“Get the ball to Cappie and get the hell out of her way.” Those eloquent words from Diana Taurasi came during the Phoenix Mercury’s run to their first WNBA title in 2007 to describe Phoenix’s half-court offense when teams slowed down their fast-break style. That tactic proved to be successful as the Mercury won the Finals with Pondexter taking home MVP honors.
During that series, the Mercury put the ball in Cappie’s hands and let her create a shot -- either for herself or a teammate. With her outstanding one-on-one skills, she was able to get past her defender and explode to the paint, either getting all the way to the basket, pulling up for an open jumper or finding an open teammate. Sound familiar? Think back to Dwyane Wade leading the Miami Heat to their first title back in 2006.
Cappie and Wade are both outstanding playmakers and explosive scorers who do most of their damage in the paint and from mid-range. Neither ranks among the great 3-point shooters, with Cappie holding an edge over Wade when it comes to shooting from beyond the arc. But if the clock is ticking down on a final possession, there aren't many players you would want ahead of Cappie and Wade in those situations.
A lot of ballers get compared 2 NBA players on any level but i'll say itz an honor 2 have @cappa23 called as the Dwade of the WNBA— Way of WADE (@DwyaneWade) April 7, 2010
You can write down the double-double on the stat sheet before the game tips off with these two. It’s all about consistency. Every night, they deliver. That is why they nicknamed Karl Malone “the Mailman”. And Tina Charles embodies that same no-nonsense, grind-it-out approach, game after game.
In each of her first three seasons in the WNBA, Charles has led the league in double-doubles, setting a new record for double-doubles in a season in each of her first two years as a pro. She can dominate the paint or step outside for the 15-to-18 foot jumper and hit it consistently. The same could be said for Malone. They both have an MVP award to their credit, although Charles snagged hers much earlier in her career than the Mailman.
While Tina’s game isn’t very fancy, it is incredibly effective and efficient. Sustained excellence is a valuable trait in any profession, and when it comes to the basketball court, few have epitomized that more than Charles and Malone.
Los Angeles Lakers
The WNBA is still in search of its Michael Jordan, so you won’t see his name in a column like this just yet. But Maya made it tempting. She is such a complete player, a great athlete, excels on both sides of the floor and possesses a championship pedigree. And it doesn’t hurt that she wears a No. 23 jersey and the Jordan Brand logo on her sneakers either.
But for now, let’s look at another logo -- the man whose silhouette is incorporated in the NBA shield and is one of the greatest shooting guards in NBA history: Jerry West. And while Maya lines up at the small forward for the Lynx, she has the skills and quickness to play with 2-guards. The pair share a desire to win that few can match and the ability to come through when their teams need them most.
West was known for having one of the best jump shots in the game -- a prototypical jumper with great form, technique and one of the fastest releases. When you watch Maya, she also has one of the best-looking jumpers in the game. She squares herself to the basket, elevates, sets her arm at 90 degrees with the ball sitting softly in her hand, breaks her wrist to send the shot up with great height and rotation until it finds the bottom of the net.
New York Knicks
You need a bucket, they’ll get you a bucket. Carmelo and Seimone are both elite scorers and have been throughout their careers. Both players have a full offensive arsenal at their disposal.
Three-point range: Check
Mid-range game: Check
Points in the paint: Check
Catch-and-shoot coming off screens: Check
The ability to their own shot at any moment: Check
...and give opposing coaches and teams nightmares drawing up schemes to slow them down: Check
When Seimone catches the ball on the perimeter, her defender is in trouble. If you’re not close enough, she’ll pull up from beyond the arc (she shot 43.7 percent last season). If you crowd her to take away the outside shot, she’ll drive past you and either get to the basket or pull up for the mid-range jumper. She’s got an impressive crossover dribble that has left many a broken ankle behind as she drives to the basket.
When it comes to comparing Melo and Mone -- even the nicknames are similar -- opposing teams are always looking for ways to slow them down and make them work harder to get their points, but they know the points are coming anyway.
Coming Up in Part 2 More All-Stars, some up and comers and a projection for the Three to See