This past summer, The Avengers showed us what can happen when a group of talented individuals come together as one. In the NBA, GMs strive to assemble a group of players like the Avengers. You need a leader on the floor (Captain America); someone to bring the thunder in the paint (Thor); a seasoned vet who has been through the trenches (Iron Man); a sharpshooting assassin who can drain outside jumpers (Hawkeye); and, of course, a beast that strikes fear into the heart of opposing defenders (Hulk). Assembling a starting five like this in the NBA offers the perfect blueprint for a championship team. And, while we’ve seen teams like Boston and Miami assemble “Big 3s,” there’s only one team entering the 2012-2013 season that has all the makings to become the NBA’s version of the Avengers: the Los Angeles Clippers. Without question, Chris Paul is the Captain America of this team. Here’s why:
A Dose of Old-Fashioned Play
It’s easy to compare Chris Paul to Steve Rogers (a.k.a. Captain America) given the fact that the point guard is seen as the floor general in basketball; yelling out plays and directing teammates into position. But, the similarities between Paul and Rogers go deeper than just this initial comparison. For starters, both have brought a dose of old-fashioned play and experience to their teams.
In The Avengers, we saw that Rogers was a man out of his element, having been unfrozen in the 21st century after decades on ice—literally. There was nothing flashy about him. Unlike his Avenger teammate, Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man), Rogers was not about style. He was about doing what was right and what needed to be done to win. Rogers was old-fashioned, which was something he worried would not translate over in today’s world. But, as Agent Phil Coulson told him, “With everything that’s happening, and the things that are about to come to light, people might just need a little old-fashioned.” And, that’s exactly what the Clippers needed from Chris Paul.
In today’s NBA game where score-first point guards like Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose seem to be becoming the new norm, Paul’s old-school, pass first, shoot second mentality has made him the league’s ideal pure point guard. When Paul was traded from the New Orleans Hornets to the Clippers prior to last season, he came from a small market town to the big, bright stage of Los Angeles; a city known for its glitz and glamour. Paul’s old-school style of play was something the franchise needed in order to compete at the next level. While they had talented players like Blake Griffin, they didn’t have that dynamic, playmaking guard who could spread the ball and open the floor the way Paul can. He has been able to use his skills and abilities to not only elevate his play, but that of his teammates, too.
When it comes to comparing the powers and abilities of Rogers and Paul, the similarities are clear. Physically, both possess strength, agility, speed, and reflexes, but there is also the matter of their weapon of choice. For Rogers, it is his signature vibranium shield, a near-indestructible disc he uses to throw at targets with pinpoint accuracy from any angle. For Paul, it is the basketball, which he uses in much the same way Rogers uses his shield. Paul is able to pass and distribute the ball from all angles of the court, and his stats prove it. Heading into this season, he has led the league in assists twice during his seven-year career and finished in the top-five six times, averaging double-digit assists in three of those seasons. But, he’s also proven that he’s more than just an offensive threat. He’s led the league in steals four times since his rookie year in 2005, and has been named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team twice. With an all-around game, Paul has proven he can utilize all facets of his game on both ends of the floor. Not only does he possess the physical skills needed to win big games, he also has the mental toughness needed to do so.
Will To Win
In The Avengers, we saw firsthand just how strong Steve Rogers’ will to win is. For a guy who came from an age where color TV seemed like the distant future, he never once let the overwhelming situation of an alien invasion get to him. He remained, calm, cool, and collected. The idea of defeat never entered his mind. He trusted his abilities, and more importantly, those of his teammates. Rogers knew that if they just kept fighting, eventually, they would pull out the win.
This innate quality of never give in and never surrender is also what defines Paul as a leader. People often think that point guard is synonymous with leadership, given the “point-guard-as-floor-general” analogy. But as we’ve seen over the years, it’s rare to find a point guard that exhibits both talent and leadership the way Paul does. Like Rogers, the moment is never too big for Chris Paul, and for proof of this, you need look no further than last season’s playoff matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies.
With the Clippers down by 21 points entering the fourth quarter and 24 points with less than 10 minutes to go in Game 1 at FedEx Forum, and victory seemingly out of reach, Paul begged coach Vinny Del Negro to put him back in the game. The result? The Clippers came back and won the game, 99-98, tying the NBA postseason record for largest deficit overcome at the end of three quarters, and Paul’s fourth-quarter performance was nothing short of heroic. He finished the game with 11 assists, seven coming in that decisive fourth quarter. And to top off the historic comeback, Paul hit the two go-ahead free throws with 23.7 seconds left that put the Clippers ahead for good. Paul said afterwards that the key to winning was to keep believing: “In the fourth quarter we like to try to stand up for ourselves, and we found a way to win tonight." Heroes always do.
In The Avengers, Tony Stark referred to Steve Rogers as a “living legend who kind of lives up to the legend.” The Clippers are finding out the same to be true about Chris Paul.
Coming Soon: Clippers center DeAndre Jordan as Thor.
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