JAMAL CRAWFORD AS ICEMAN

In the opening part of a five-part series comparing the Clippers bench to the X-Men band of superheroes, the Jamal Crawford's ability to control a game with his shooting prowess is compared to Iceman.

Jamal Crawford as Iceman

The X-Men. A group of mutants deemed outcasts and social misfits by a society who viewed their extraordinary gifts and talents as forces to be feared. While most people were quick to condemn them to a life of nomadic wandering, one man, Charles Xavier, saw the true potential these individuals possessed and how they could use what they had for good.

Each member of the team brought with them their own unique skillset that helped turn the X-Men into a force to be reckoned with. There was the member with the ability to transform the environment around him (Iceman); that raw talent who could step up and be a leader (Cyclops); the fun-loving intellectual big man who could be a dominant force (Beast); the acrobatic member with the ability to transport himself all over the battlefield (Nightcrawler); and, of course, that player with the fierce attitude and playing style (Wolverine).

Like the X-Men, the Clippers have been somewhat of a haven themselves this season when it comes to a past misperception of talent. Their bench is comprised of players who, collectively, have played for more than 20 teams during their careers. While other teams were quick to let them go, the Clippers saw an opportunity for revival. By bringing this group together, the Clippers have formed one of the deepest benches in the league. And, like the X-Men, much of that success can be attributed to their Iceman, Jamal Crawford. Here’s why:

For most people, the only version of Iceman they’ve seen is from the films X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand. In those films, Iceman is made out to look like nothing more than a lovelorn, Twilight-wannabe school kid (ask me how I really feel). Robert Louis “Bobby” Drake was indeed a teenager when he first came to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in the comics, but what many people don’t realize is that he was actually the second member of the original X-Men group behind Scott Summers (Cyclops): he was a staple of the team. But Iceman often had a hard time fitting in. He was well liked by his teammates, but his emotional honesty often got the better of him. For a period of time, he actually left the X-Men and traveled the country, searching for an identity and a way to harness his power, which at times reached near uncontrollable levels. He needed to find the right situation where he could flourish.

Now, although Iceman may not be the most popular or well-known member of the X-Men squad, he is, perhaps, one of the most powerful. What sets him apart from most mutants is that his power—the ability to create icy constructs and bring temperatures to near subzero levels—allows him to influence and affect the ecosystem of the entire world. He has been classified as an Omega level mutant; a distinction given only to the most powerful class of mutants. Iceman was a journeyman, and a powerful one at that.

Like Iceman, Jamal Crawford has had somewhat of a journeyman-like career, himself, playing for five teams in 12 years before joining the Clippers. Crawford has always been a great scorer, and he’s accomplished several notable feats to date, including winning the Sixth Man of the Year Award with the Atlanta Hawks in 2010, and also earning the distinction of being just the fourth player in NBA history to score 50 points in a game for three different teams (during his stints with the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and Golden State Warriors). However, as great as Crawford’s offensive game has been throughout his career, the results haven’t necessarily always translated into team success. Coming into this season, only one of the teams Crawford has played for ever ranked in the top ten in points per game, the 2008-09 Golden State Warriors squad that finished the season second in the league in overall points, but posted a dismal record of just 29-53. That high-powered offense came under the tutelage of offensive guru Don Nelson, a coach known for favoring an up-tempo style of offense. Crawford has always been a gifted player on mostly bad teams, but as we saw when he was with the Hawks: when Crawford is put in the right environment, he has the ability to transform his game and the offense around him.

This season, the Clippers have offered Crawford the opportunity to shine once again. Not only is Crawford playing at an All-Star level himself, he is part of a team that features superstars like Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. He now finds himself as the premier go-to scorer for the team’s second unit. Crawford is currently averaging 16.7 points per game and shooting 37.5 percent from 3-point range; his best averages since his Sixth Man of the Year season. The Clippers currently rank seventh in the NBA in overall points per game at 101.6, and rank second in bench points per game at 41.6. Much of this success can be attributed to Crawford, who like his X-Men counterpart, has been able to influence the environment around him and bring it to new levels. It’s no secret that the Clippers have a potent offense, but with Crawford on their squad the offense has been transformed. When Crawford has hit the 20-point mark, the Clippers are 12-4 and averaging 106.1 points per game. Conversely, in games where Crawford has failed to hit the 15-point plateau, the Clippers’ record is 11-5, and they’re averaging just 96.6 points. But Crawford isn’t just making a name for himself as the high-scorer for the second unit. In the 39 games he has appeared in this season, he’s led the team in scoring 13 times, proving his value to both the team and the league.

And, as the year progresses, you can expect Crawford to continue to elevate his play and help transform the Clippers’ offense as the team’s iceman, solidifying their reputation as legitimate title contenders. 

Coming Soon: Eric Bledsoe as Cyclops. 

Colin J. Liotta is the co-founder of the website The Sports Hero along with his wife, Bushra, and acts as the Editor-in-Chief. The website combines sports and comics into one place for fans of both genres. See more of Colin's work at www.thesportshero.com