I was a huge wrestling fan growing up. Monday nights were highly anticipated in my younger years as I couldn’t wait for Raw is War so I could smell what “The Rock” was cooking, yell “Hell Yeah” when Stone Cold Steve Austin asked the fans to give him a “Hell Yeah” or chant “YOU SUCK” when Kurt Angle walked to the ring.
My love for professional wrestling is still there as I reference it in my articles from time to time. Also in the intro of my podcast, The Real Deal with Damian Adams, you can hear a small piece of the entrance music for former Intercontinental Champion D’Lo Brown. After watching Nature Boy, a documentary on wrestling legend Ric Flair, that feeling of nostalgia came back. I started to think what if your favorite basketball player was a wrestler? Which wrestler would they be? Who is the Ric Flair of the NBA? Who is the LeBron James of wrestling? Here is my list of NBA players and wrestlers who mirror each other.
Ric Flair/Michael Jordan
Ric Flair and Michael Jordan are both considered the greatest of all-time in their respective sports by many of the fans. Even though it has been quite some time since both of these guys have performed at the highest level, the influence is still very evident today. All great NBA players get compared to Michael Jordan and young kids who never saw Jordan play wear his shoes. People who never saw Ric Flair wrestle still know how to give a good, Whooo!! Flair is the standard for all wrestlers when it comes to bravado, microphone and in-ring skills. I would say that Ric Flair is the Michael Jordan of wrestling and vice-versa.
LeBron James/ John Cena
John Cena and LeBron James have both spent time as the franchise players in their respective sports. Cena was the franchise player for the WWE for over 10 years and James has been the franchise player for not only the Cleveland Cavaliers but the NBA for over 10 years as well. Both James and Cena are polarizing figures in their sports as it seems the fans either love them or hate them, there is no middle ground. When it comes to LeBron James’ overall skills and basketball I.Q., other players in the NBA simply can’t see him.
Stone Cold Steve Austin/ Larry Bird
A lot of wrestling fans, myself included think of the “Attitude Era” as the greatest time in WWE history. We look back at that time with such nostalgia because of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin was entertaining both in and out of the ring. We all fell in love with the beer drinking guy, who kicked butt, and didn’t take mess from anybody. Basketball fans who think of the 80’s as the golden era of the NBA feel the same way about Larry Bird. Bird could play and talk with the best of them. These country boys left the fans with so many memories and legendary stories.
The Rock/ Magic Johnson
You can’t talk about Larry Bird without talking about Magic Johnson, just like you can’t talk about Stone Cold without talking about The Rock. Their respective rivalries with Stone Cold and Larry Bird made those eras what they were. Magic Johnson and The Rock are both known for their electrifying personalities and being celebrities of the people. Whether it was The Rock doing “The People’s Elbow” or Magic Johnson throwing a no-look pass, it was “Showtime” whenever these two were on their stage. Both The Rock and Magic Johnson have had massively successful careers after leaving the ring and the court. The Rock is one of the biggest actors in the world and Magic Johnson is the owner of several businesses, part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Undertaker/ Tim Duncan
When you think of longevity and excellence, you think of The Undertaker and Tim Duncan. The Undertaker was the scariest man in the WWE and didn’t say much. He went out there, destroyed you, and broke your will by constantly rising up, no matter what you did to him. The Undertaker performed at a high level for over 20 years. Tim Duncan is very similar in his quiet demeanor. Duncan was given the nickname “The Big Fundamental” for how he took the basics and destroyed you with them. Duncan performed at a high level in the NBA for almost 20 seasons.
Kevin Durant/ Hollywood Hogan
This may seem like an odd pairing but let me explain. Kevin Durant was the lovable scorer with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Even if you were not a fan of OKC, you didn’t have a problem with Durant. Hulk Hogan was every kid’s favorite wrestler and had all young people eating their vitamins, brother! Then during his stint with WCW, Hogan made the biggest heel turn in wrestling history by going from kid friendly Hulk Hogan to Hollywood Hogan when he joined the NWO (New World Order). Kevin Durant made a similar turn when he joined the Golden State Warriors. He now has fake twitter accounts, uses curse words during interviews, gets ejected from games and flashes his ring finger to the crowd. These two stars shocked the world when they became “bad guys”.
Shawn Michaels/ Russel Westbrook
Shawn Michaels may have been the greatest in-ring performer in WWE history. Michaels had such a flair for the dramatic. He was a great athlete who didn’t care what you thought about him. The fearless leader of D-Generation X was the MVP of the WWE during a time when they were fighting with WCW for ratings and could have been run out of business. Russell Westbrook was the MVP for the Oklahoma City Thunder during a transition year where they could have easily been a lottery team. Westbrook is definitely one of, if not, the most entertaining player in the NBA. Westbrook is “The Heart Break Kid” of the NBA.
Brock Lesnar/ Giannis Antetokounmpo
When Brock Lesnar broke into the WWE, he was branded as “The Next Big Thing” because he was a combination of size, speed, and skill that we had not seen in professional wrestling. Giannis Antetokounmpo is someone who was thought of as “The Next Big Thing”. Just like Lesnar, The Greek Freak arrived before he was scheduled to. When you have the combination of size, skill, speed, and determination that these guys have there is no timetable for greatness. Lesnar became the youngest WWE champion ever at that time and Antetokounmpo seems to break a record for youngest to do this or that every day. The Greek Freak’s time is now: here comes the pain.