Kuroko no Basket is a fantastic bridge that connects two of my all-time hobbies–basketball and watching anime. I’ve been doing both for as long as I can remember since I was a wee little booger-eater, and they’ve become ingrained within the very fibers of my identity today. Sometimes it’s a chore to consistently keep up with both while also juggling pesky real life obligations in the process. Fortunately, being a New York Knicks fan usually gives me quite a bit of free time this part of the year.
The NBA finals just concluded with a result I find to be equal parts awe-inspiring and disappointing, so what better time to make this kind of post? The ‘Generation of Miracles’ in Kuroko no Basket refers to a set of five (arguably six if you count Kuroko himself) players who bring ridiculously transcending levels of talent to each of their respective positions. Not too different from any other sports anime, but especially crazy within the context of basketball. However, no matter how OP they are, it’s still very doable to draw parallels between the skill sets of the GoM and certain NBA players.
The goal here is to find the NBA counterpart of each member of the GoM. The only guideline for myself here is that the players must have played during the 2015-2016 NBA season. Hopefully, fans of the series will stumble upon this post and learn a bit about the general landscape of the NBA today, while fans of both can enjoy and perhaps even challenge the reasoning behind my comparisons. Without further ado, let’s begin!
1. Ryota Kise
- Gifted athlete with aptitude towards any sport
- Incredibly fast-learner who’s shown to be able to copy any player’s trademark skill or move to perfection after only seeing it once
- ‘Perfect Copy’ – Able to emulate the skill sets of the other GoM members at the same elite level for five minutes—arguably the best all-around player in the series when utilizing this
- Pretty af
So basically, Kise’s NBA counterpart would have to be a player who is capable of doing everything at an elite level, which just so happens to be the easiest one to name in this post…
LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers; formerly Miami Heat 2010-2015 & Cleveland Cavaliers 2004-2010)
Unless you’ve somehow lived under a rock for the past decade, you must have heard this man’s name at least a couple of times in passing. He’s in the same vein as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant as one of those rare breed of players whose talent pushed him into becoming a household name in modern pop-culture. LeBron James is a consensus all-time great player who made his mark on the NBA by bringing forth a rare combination of insane athleticism, surgeon-like dexterity, and a natural intuition towards the game. The finished product is a player who can essentially play virtually any position on the court at an elite level. Tell me this shit doesn’t already need a nerf. The four-time MVP (2008-2009, 2009-2010, 2011-2012, 2012-2013) has won three NBA Championships (2011-2012, 2012-2013, 2015-2016) in the process of taking countless shits on the hopes and dreams of opposing fans across the world.
LeBron is known as a ‘point-forward.’ The traditional positions of basketball are point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center. Even though he’s technically listed as a shooting forward, analysts enjoy using the term ‘point-forward’ to describe a player who has the skill set of a point guard in the body of a bigger body suited for a forward. He can comfortably drive by his defender, pull-up and shoot from anywhere, post up on a smaller defender, or breakdown the defense and effortlessly pass the ball to set-up a teammate. You name it, and he’s already put it on a highlight reel.
Tell me that the first five plays of this compilation video alone don’t showcase each of the GoM’s individual specialties. While I personally loathe the Cleveland Cavaliers for reasons that would probably exceed the word limit of this post, LeBron’s performance in the finals was nothing short of terrifying. Being down 3-1 against one of the all-time great teams in the Golden State Warriors, the man rose up and became a god to help his team win the next three games. If any of us needed a reminder, it cemented the fact that he’s the best all-around player in the world. What Kise can do in five minutes is what LeBron does all game.
Oh, and to really drive the comparison home, guess what? LeBron James also happened to be one of the best high school football players in his position in the state, and there are many who believe that he could have had a successful career in the NFL had he chosen that over basketball. He’s a goddamn freak.
2. Shintaro Midorima
- Super accurate three-point shooter with range that covers the entire court
- Tall frame (second tallest GoM member) + high release point = virtually unblockable shot
- Astrological sign is Cancer, which shouldn’t be confused with the yaoi obsessed savages within this series’s fanbase
So which player brings a similar lethal ability to shoot from virtually any range?
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
The reigning two-time MVP has taken the NBA by storm. Coming out of college, he was already known to have a lethal stroke from range, but recurrent ankle injuries early on in his career kept him off the court a significant amount of time. However, after finally being able to get consistent playing time these past few seasons, he’s been able to show the world what he’s capable of.
In the 2012-2013 season, he broke the previous record of three-point field goals made in the regular season of 269 by making 272 of his own. He then broke his own record by knocking down 286 threes in the 2014-2015 season.
This past 2015-2016 season? He once again broke his own record, and this time nailing a surreal 402 shots from downtown. No one else in the 70-year history of the NBA has even made more than 300, yet Curry was able to hit more than 400. That’s almost twice amount the original record set by Ray Allen (269), who was regarded as arguably best shooter of all-time. Well, before Curry that is.
On both of those highlights, you can clearly see that Curry is well beyond the three-point line. Guess what? That’s normal for him. He’s demonstrated a shooting ability that can only be described as otherworldly. Dribbling and pulling up from near the halfcourt line only to see the ball touch nothing but the net. It’s gotten to the point where I’m shocked only if he misses a shot like that.
Curry’s talent is a statistical anomaly that redefines the preconceived human limitations on shooting a basketball. I think my favorite stat is that Curry shot 49/95 (51.6%) from 28-50 feet from the basket during the 2015-2016 NBA season while the league average for shots taken from 3-9 feet away sits at 39.8%. The three-point line for the NBA is little less than 24 feet from the basket, and the league average for shots taken in range of 24-26 feet was around 35%.
In short? Curry shot significantly better from the neighborhood of the halfcourt line than the league averages of shots taken from outside 3 feet away from the basket. That’s a little crazy, and the resemblance to Midorima’s ability is uncanny. Steph Curry is already the all-time greatest shooter in NBA history, so really this was a pretty easy call to make.
3. Daiki Aomine
- Utilizes his insane agility and ‘change of pace’ ability to get past any defender(s)
- Can literally make any shot using any form he wants to—from any angle and position
- Result of someone who wanted to put together QWOP and any NBA 2K game with all cheats on/rules off—capable of the dumbest and most ridiculous Benny Hill themed brand of shit this series has to offer
- My favorite part about him is that he was simply so good that he started to lose passion for the sport and became a huge dick. Have you ever been so good at something that you simply stopped giving a single fuck? Yeah, thought so
So we need to find a player who’s capable of using his quickness to get into the paint and finish seemingly at will no matter against whom or how many. Well…
Derrick Rose (New York Knicks; formerly Chicago Bulls 2008-2016)
Explosive. Quick. Acrobatic. These are all words that immediately come to mind to any NBA fan who’s had the fortune of watching Rose play in his prime. Watching him play was awe-inspiring, and I don’t use that lightly. He was known for having an incredibly fast first step off the dribble, meaning that much like Aomine’s change of pace, he could go from 0-100 real quick and almost instantly lose his defender in his dust. And then once he got into the paint, that’s where the real magic happened.
It didn’t matter how many people were in between him and the basket. Whether it was one, two, or even three. Much like how I look for points being automatically added to the scoreboard every time Steph Curry releases the ball from another country, it was pretty much the same phenomenon with Rose whenever he would get into the paint. The way he’d nimbly contort his body and finish despite the contact was poetry in motion.
His 2010-2011 season with the Chicago Bulls was incredible. Being the best player on the best team that year earned him MVP honors, making him the youngest player to ever achieve that. However, multiple knee injuries would soon take their toll on him and his effectiveness, making him a shell of his former self. He may never regain his prime form again, but he’s earned the adoration of countless fans along the way that want to believe otherwise.
4. Atushi Murasakibara
- Tallest GoM member that makes every other character in the series in comparison look like a member of the Survey Corps trying to defend Wall Maria
- Finely tuned defensive instincts that allow him to swat away almost any shot aimed at the basket
- Utilizes his overwhelming strength to overpower opponents for easy dunks on the offensive end
- Arguably the most broken ability of all is to eat metric shit tons of junk food without any of the consequences—seriously, fuck him
Murasakibara’s description is thankfully one of the more straightforward ones to work with. We’re looking for a dominant center who uses his freakish size and strength to be a focal point on both the offensive and defensive ends. Who fits the bill?
Okay, this one was pretty difficult because unlike certain other positions, there isn’t a consensus best center in the league at the moment. There are a handful of contenders for the title, but today’s league is becoming more guard-centric as offenses are ditching traditional post-play by big men for faster paced volleys of three-pointers and transition baskets. The league was full to the brim of superstar big men a decade ago in Shaq, Yao Ming, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber, Rasheed Wallace, etc. who could seemingly do it all and carry their teams. However, that’s not to say that the position is completely devoid of generational talent today. Enter DeMarcus Cousins.
DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)
Cousins is a player who has the strongest case to make for the title at the moment. He’s the focal point of a disastrously managed Sacramento Kings team that hasn’t seen anything resembling hope since the time that historical creatures such as Blockbuster and MySpace used to exist. Seriously, they’re pretty bad and have been for what feels like an eternity and a half. However, Cousins is the one bright spot they have in terms of talent.
He was one of only two centers this past season who scored more than 20PPG (points per game) and pulled more than 10RPG (rebounds per game). That’s an elite statline you’d ideally want from any big man, and Cousins boasts an arguably stronger overall statline than his competition. His 26.9PPG was good for 4th in the league out of all players and 1st among centers, and his 11.5RPG was good for number 5 in the league. What point am I trying to make here? He’s pretty good at basketball.
At 6’11” and 270 pounds, Cousins is able to use his massive frame and strength to bully people for position in the paint to score easily—similar to Murasakibara. There aren’t many players in the league who can match him in this department, so he’s free to abuse the advantage in a lot of match-ups. He also possess a lethal combination of footwork and coordination to go along with his size and strength making him a difficult threat to counter.
While he may not have the absolute defensive prowess of Mursakibara, he can certainly hold his own in that regard. He utilizes his massive frame to harass any shot attempts in the paint, and may God have mercy on your soul if you decide to post-up on him.
However, what he possess in great footwork and strength, he has a list of shortcomings. He doesn’t have a great deal of defensive awareness, can force the offense and not play to his strengths, prone to committing an unfortunate number of unnecessary fouls and turnovers, and has a reputation for having maturity issues and not being able to keep a cool head.
Despite all of his weaknesses, Cousins is still very much a name to look out for among the NBA’s elite players today. Maybe if his team’s front office manages to spend less time burying themselves in their own ass to make competent moves to surround him with decent players, his talent won’t be wasted like it is now.
5. Seijuurou Akashi
- Former captain of the GoM; unrivaled leadership qualities
- Possess the ‘Emperor Eye’—basketball sharingan that allows him to predict and manipulate his opponents’ movements on both the offensive and defensive end
- Phenomenal intelligence, passing skill, and court vision gives him amazing playmaking abilities that help bring out the best in teammates
- Seriously, apart from having the psychological stability of Dr. Jekyll, this guy is pretty OP and doesn’t have any real weaknesses
- Always loses at rock-paper-scissors because everyone knows that he always throws scissors
This is fairly tough, especially when you throw in the ball-handling skill necessary to emulate his trademark ankle breakers. If we’re exclusively thinking about that, then either Kyrie Irving or Steph Curry come to mind.
While they’re both known for having some of the best handles in the league which allows them to put anyone on the wrong end of a highlight reel on any given night, neither of them are considered pass-first point-guards. They both also have reputations for being below-average defensively, so any Akashi comparison would be one-dimensional at best.
Given what Akashi brings to the table, his NBA counterpart would have to be a fundamentally sound traditional point-guard who’s both capable of bringing the best out of his teammates and possessing the skill set to take over games when he has to on both offense and defense.
Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers; formerly New Orleans Hornets 2005-2011)
The man is unfortunately overshadowed by a handful of names such as the aforementioned two above every season, but the fact of the matter is that he is the best traditional pass-first point guard that the league has to offer. His consistency at playing at such a high level each season seems to be very underappreciated by the majority of basketball fans.
He used to be the consensus best player at his position a few years ago, but has been overtaken in the discussion by the success and highlights of electrifying players such as Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook. While he may not have the 720 no-scope accuracy from long range like Curry, or explosiveness that rivals Hiroshima in a player like Westbrook, Paul makes up for what he lacks in flashiness with some of the most composed guard play I’ve seen in the league.
His elite passing skill combined with his great court vision and extraordinary intuition and cleverness makes Paul one of the most dangerous playmakers in the game. He has a knack of being able to read what the defense is doing and will often make the right play or pass in a variety of situations.
He’s currently the leader among all active NBA players for career average of assists per game at 9.9, and that’s good for 3rd all-time behind legends in John Stockton and Magic Johnson. That’s pretty good company to be in. He’s led the league in two out of the past three seasons in that category, and the Los Angeles Clippers have been one of the most efficient offensive teams in the league during his tenure.
However, it doesn’t stop at just being able to simply pass the ball—the man has proven that he can score his own buckets seemingly at will.
Driving to the basket, pulling up for three, or anywhere else in the space in between. There’s an interesting stat analysts enjoy using called player efficiency rating (PER), which is an “all-in-one basketball rating, which attempts to boil down all of a player’s contributions into one number.” Chris Paul has a career average PER of 25.7 which puts him down for 2nd among active players behind only LeBron James, and 6th all-time over certain names such as Steph Curry (23.23), Russell Westbrook (22.8), and even Kobe Bryant (22.90).
What kind of point am I trying to illustrate with these fancy numbers and hyperlinks? The dude has shown to be incredibly consistent and efficient with what he does best, which happens to be a virtually everything demanded of him.
Paul has also earned the reputation of being fantastic defender at his position. While steals aren’t an accurate measure of a player’s defensive prowess, it’s still very much worth mentioning that Paul has led the league in steals six out of his nine seasons in the league, and is the current leader among active players for steals per game (SPG) at 2.3. He has also been voted onto the NBA All-Defensive 1st team nearly every year of his career.
The biggest criticism that has been fired at his career is his lack of team success. None of his teams have made it past the second round in the playoffs. It’s unfair to discredit Paul’s skill and accomplishments by holding that only against him. Unfortunate breaks such as injuries have cut a few of Clippers’ playoff runs short, along with having to compete in a stacked western conference full of dangerous teams year in and year out.
In any event, Chris Paul to me is still the best traditional point guard and floor general in the NBA. His brilliant all-around skill set combined with his cerebral approach to the game is as close to Akashi’s prowess minus his basketball keikei genkai that we’ll see in real life.
6. Tetsuya Kuroko
- Utilizes his lack of presence and keen observational skills for a style almost entirely based on misdirection
- Apart from his phenomenal passing skills and court vision, he lacks any conventional basketball skill and athleticism
- His lack of presence often leads him to getting hurt
- Kuroko fans also love watching Spongebob because both shows have scrubs for main characters
Now this is the most interesting character to work with. It doesn’t take a basketball fan to know that Kuroko’s skill set is straight up anime shit that can only effectively work in fiction. There’s no literal translation of his niche-ass skill set found in the NBA, obviously. So, we’ll need to use a more liberal interpretation of what he brings to the table.
If we describe Kuroko as a player whose impact isn’t quantified on the stat sheet, we’d be looking for an elite ‘glue guy’ player—an unsung hero of a player who essentially does all of the little things demanded of him to bring the team success. Andre Iguoudala was my first go-to choice here, but his skill set is very reminiscent of a poor man’s LeBron. Despite also being a sixth man for the Golden State Warriors, someone who can do a little bit of everything is pretty much the antithesis of someone like Kuroko who can hardly do jack shit on his own, so that comparison is shallow at best.
Kuroko excels at passing and getting steals by utilizing his misdirection, but fails at pretty much every other facet of the game. Even though he developed unorthodox skills in his phantom shot and phantom drive, it’s better for us to disregard that and assume that he has very little handles or shooting ability.
So, mirror mirror on the wall, who fits this scrub best of all~?
Ricky Rubio (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Rubio is one of my favorite players in the league simply because he’s a fucking wizard. Even though he never wears his hat and robe during games, I can tell because there’s no other explanation for some of the passes that he’s been able to pull off.
His passes are honestly some of the most mesmerizing shit I’ve seen in basketball.
I had to watch this GIF above at least five times to fully process the journey that the ball took from Rubio’s hand to his teammate’s. He also happens to be one of the best defensive players at his position, averaging the second-most steals per game for the past three seasons—second behind only Chris Paul. On top of his elite passing and court vision, Rubio also possesses some of the best ball-handling in the league as well, effectively making him one of the higher tier point guards in the league today. While Rubio’s handles deviates quite a bit from Kuroko’s bag of nonsense, their flaws have a funny amount of parallels.
Rubio is a notoriously abysmal shooter. Abysmal might be putting it lightly. It’s not often that you see point guards with this poor level of shooting. He has shown slight improvement over the past couple of seasons, but that’s like spraying Febreeze on a pile of dog shit and calling it progress. At best he went from “terrible” to “somewhere below mediocre.”
Unfortunately, he also happens to be injury prone. Rubio has only played one full season of 82 games, and has played only 278/378 (73%) of total games throughout his career. There have been far worse examples of injury prone players who’ve played significantly less games, or even retired because of it. However, Rubio’s reputation for being a player who’s made out of glass has at least some base to it. Although unlike Rose, Rubio’s style of play isn’t entirely based on his athleticism, so he’ll most likely still be just as effective throughout his career despite his injuries.
Fantastic court vision, passing, and propensity for stealing the ball combined with his lack of shooting and ability to stay on the court due to injuries makes Rubio the most apt IRL comparison to Kuroko in my most humble opinion.
And there you have it! This post was actually really fun to do, even if it involved a decent amount of legwork to compile all of the gifs and research. Huge shout-out to Basketball-Reference for providing a lot of valuable statistical info that I used in this post to make myself appear as slightly less of a fraud.
If you want to discuss or even argue about some of my reasoning with these comparisons, have a question about any of these players or the NBA in general, or maybe even suggest a few comparisons of your own, please don’t hesitate to drop a comment below!
Mamba Mareep Out