When I first considered comparing NBA players and Pokemon, I of course googled “comparing NBA players to Pokemon” to see if it had been done. And if so, how many times? Quickly, google pointed out to me that it had been done several times and in multiple different manners (my favorite was a reddit thread titled “If NBA players were Pokemon, what would be some evolutions?” that I highly recommend you check out).
Luckily, as far as I could see, nobody has taken my idea to compare NBA players to the three original starter Pokemon: Charmander, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur. Now, as probably 99% of people under the age of 40 know, these Pokemon evolve into more powerful forms.
For the purpose of this article, the players chosen need to have “evolved” themselves and become great over time with hard work and practice. Consequently, those selected will not be players that started out as obvious great players – like Lebron. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Lebron hasn’t evolved as a player, or that his work ethic inhibited his rise to stardom – because that’s just flat out false. The original three starter Pokemon have similar potentials in their initial form; therefore, it would not make sense to include a player like Lebron that came into the league with the most potential since Jordan. This means that players like Lebron and Jordan are more comparable to legendary Pokemon, which I know exist but cannot currently think of their names. Just know they start out better than regular Pokemon and stay that way.
Now, we also know that as an average Pokemon player (and not a diehard weird Pokemon nerd (says the guy writing an article about Pokemon and NBA players)), your starter Pokemon is the foundation of your team and the one that you are going to build your team around based on its style of play. Sounds pretty similar to an NBA superstar, huh?
So without further ado, I present my ideas as to which NBA players are similar to Charmander, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur.
Here is a description of Bulbasaur from Bulbapedia, which I’m pretty sure is like the official Wikipedia for Pokemon, “Bulbasaur is regarded as both a rare and well-behaved Pokémon. It is known to be extremely loyal… Bulbasaur has also shown itself to be an excellent caretaker, even having a special technique called the “Bulba-by.” To perform this technique, Bulbasaur uses its vines to “pick up a young Pokémon and soothingly rock it in the air.” That last part about rocking babies to sleep seems unnecessary to add, but I thought it was kind of funny.
So, we are seeking a rare player who has been well behaved, loyal, and good with teammates. In my opinion, the perfect comparison in the NBA right now is Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk has been the cornerstone of the Mavericks for 19 years, and it’s safe to say he’s a pretty damn rare breed of basketball player. He’s a shooting 7-footer that can dominate a game. Enough said.
Dirk checks all the boxes of Bulbasaur (though he is clearly Venusaur, the most powerful evolution of Bulbasaur, at this point). He has been the exemplar of well behaved and loyal, as is obvious in the Mavs keeping him for 19 years…and I guess him choosing to remain with the Mavs for 19 years as well. Dirk is an exceptional teammate, one that has not spawned a single major feud with a colleague. Steve Nash, former teammate of the German Giant, is quoted as saying, “Our friendship was something solid in a very volatile world….He would have also become a good friend if we had met at the supermarket.”
Here is Squirtle’s description from Bulbapedia: “Squirtle is a small Pokémon that resembles a light blue turtle… Squirtle can spray foamy water from its mouth with great accuracy. In the past, Skull Bash was its signature move.” I’m going to interpret that last part about skull bashing as an ability to score in the paint and the foamy water spray as the ability to shoot from deep.
We are looking for a small player that can both snipe from long range and get into the paint. In my opinion, this has to be Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics. Listed at 5’9” and 185 lbs, Isaiah is one of the smallest guys in the league right now and the same size I was in 8th grade (yeah I was chubby, so what?). But despite his size, Thomas is one of the most dangerous players in the NBA. Why? You guessed it, the little guy can snipe from three-point range and he gets to the bucket equally as well. Also, it doesn’t hurt his case that he looks kind of like a turtle.
Note: Stephen Curry was my original thought here; however, I feel like Steph reached a level where is considered universally transcendent, so I decided he’s an unfair comparison to any of the three original Pokemon. Also, Steph is not that small at 6’3″.
Last, but certainly not least, we have Charmander. Here is his description from Bulbapedia, “Charmander is a bipedal, reptilian Pokémon with a primarily orange body… A fire burns at the tip of this Pokémon’s slender tail, and has blazed there since Charmander’s birth. The flame can be used as an indication of Charmander’s health and mood, burning brightly when the Pokémon is strong, weakly when it is exhausted, wavering when it is happy, and blazing when it is enraged.” For our purposes, I will interpret the fire as passion for the game and the differing charateristics of the flame as an inability to contain one’s emotions.
I need a player that is passionate and wears his heart on his sleeve, and also can become Charizard and just kill everybody (not in the description or anything but it’s important). Honestly, this was the easiest one for me, and truthfully the driving factor for wanting to compare the other two starter Pokemon in the first place. Charmander is none other than Russell Westbrook. Russ is a crazy passionate basketball player and it’s obvious when you look at his face during a game. In fact, after watching him for years now, it looks like he’s becoming crazier than he was when he started in the league. Russ does not hide it when he’s unhappy (read: pissed) or when he is super hyped about something good. He is pretty much the exact opposite of Kawhi Leonard, who was recently photographed in mid-air falling to the ground, paralyzed 5 feet in a horizontal position, and had absolutely no expression on his face. Also, along with his passion and emotional nature, Russ has the ability to go Charizard mode and completely flame an opposing defenses if provoked. Finally, the Thunder sometimes wear orange jerseys so that works in Russ’ favor for this comparison as well. Never provoke a fire-breathing dragon folks.
Photo via chalavadi vishnu