It sure has been a sedentary month if you’re a sports fan. This time of year would normally be jam packed with significant events both locally and abroad, but alas, the balls, pucks and shuttlecocks have all been shelved for the foreseeable future.
By now, we should be deep into the NBA postseason, where superstars like Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and Pascal Siakam would be vying for a shot at the coveted Larry O’Brien trophy. Instead, every team has suffered the fate of the New York Knicks, with no playoffs to enjoy.
Fortunately for us lucky otaku fans however, we have a basketball anime to help fill the cavernous NBA void.
Some know it as Kuroko’s Basketball. Others prefer Kuroko no Basuke. My nana calls it Kroccy Ball for some reason.
However you put it, the thrilling adventures of Kuroko and company is viewed by many as one of the greatest sports anime of all time, and it’s the perfect way to get your basketball kick while the NBA is on hiatus.
You need look no further than Seirin’s roster to find uncanny correlations with basketball legends, current and classic, and we took the time to list some of them here.
Obviously, we’re referring to their game, as opposed to their looks. Ain’t nobody in the NBA who’s as pretty as Izuki-kun.
Tetsuya Kuroko: Ricky Rubio
Trying to find an NBA player who matches Kuroko’s skillset is a steep task, because we so rarely see someone who passes with the elegance of Steve Nash, while also shooting from deep like Shaq on a bad day.
The closest we’ve got is Ricky Rubio, and it’s actually a pretty reasonable comparison, when you break it down. Both players excel as facilitators, dishing out pinpoint assists that make their teammates seem unstoppable. Neither of them are credible scorers, with Rubio’s pedestrian 11.3 points per game only looking serviceable when compared to Kuroko’s career average, which teeters precariously around the range of zero.
They’re both crafty defenders, though Rubio is a solid one-on-one matchup, whereas Kuroko’s advantage comes from the fact that opponents legitimately forget he even exists.
The greatest ability is lastability, however, and Ricky Rubio somehow just sticks around, having logged nine years of service in the NBA. Similarly, Kuroko could well have already played 15 seasons and we wouldn’t have even noticed.
Each of these players, put quite simply, is a doer, and there’s a reason why they keep on reappearing in starting lineups. Rubio has yet to master the Cyclone Pass, but maybe he’s just saving it for a teammate who can handle its sheer force.
Taiga Kagami: Giannis Antetokounmpo
No, we’re not going to play it safe and say that Kagami is like Michael Jordan or LeBron James, simply because he’s the top player on his team. Though those legends also display crazy athleticism and generational talent, their games don’t really match up with the competitive wunderkind.
Kagami plays more like a big, owning the paint alongside Kiyoshi or Mitobe, and is better known for his dunking than his shooting. That’s why we’re looking a little further and anointing him as the anime equivalent to the Greek Freak Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is simultaneously one of the NBA’s most exciting players and most annoying names to have to type repeatedly.
It’s fair to say that each of these players took their teams by storm, completely changing opposing gameplans to account for their dominance. As Kagami goes, so too does Seirin, and he is a menace both offensively and defensively who just seems to be getting better with every game.
It was a toss-up whether to go with Giannis or Lakers big man Anthony Davis, the latter of whom was quietly putting together an excellent season in LeBron James’ sizeable shadow. In the end, it came down to upward trajectory, plus a nagging doubt that Kagami would ever actually defer to LeBron (who, let’s face it, is much better as a villain).
Junpei Hyuga: Ray Allen
One of the lynchpins of Seirin’s roster, Junpei Hyuga is an invaluable player with a basketball IQ that is off the charts, offset by the fact that he’s kind of a jerk most of the time.
If you were to condense Hyuga’s game into two things (besides the fact that his glasses somehow never fall off when he’s playing for 40+ minutes), it’s his shooting acumen and the ability to get the buckets when it most counts. He’s incredibly reliable sinking deep 3-pointers, rallying the troops when things look grim and never succumbing to the pressure.
As for Ray Allen, LeBron James once said of the Hall of Famer: “Ray can be 0-for-99 in a game, and if he gets an open look late, it’s going down”.
He’s among the top 50 best 3-point shooters in league history, and his most famous attempt — down 92-95 with the NBA Championship on the line against the dynastic San Antonio Spurs — saved his Miami Heat from elimination with 7 seconds left on the clock.
This loaded Heat team that was headlined by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, was salvaged by Allen when the title was on the line, and there was arguably no player better suited to take that shot. Let’s put it this way, if you’ve got one chance to sink a corner 3 with a defender closing in, would you want the ball in Kagami’s hands? Of course not!
Shun Izuki: Rajon Rondo
It’s tempting to point to Ben Simmons’ exceptional floor vision and arbitrarily insert him here to cater to those who want to celebrate the local kid, but his parallels to Shun Izuki aren’t strong. Simmons isn’t a reliable shooter, and his abilities as a rebounder and defender ring truer of a forward than a guard. Additionally, his pun game pales in comparison to our boy Izuki.
Depending on who you ask, Rajon Rondo practically is a walking joke, but more significantly, is ballyhooed as one of the greatest floor generals of all time.
Izuki’s eagle eye lets him see the entire court as if he was watching from above, giving him a unique perspective on the location of his teammates and adversaries. He’s the very definition of a point guard, and it’s his job to set things up for the Seirin offence, keeping the whole machine ticking along while rarely claiming adulation for himself.
Rondo is also exceptional at mapping out plays, which makes up for his multiple shortcomings in other aspects of the game. At his peak, he was a stellar defender, and like Izuki, capable of poking the ball out when his opponent got careless. About the only thing that doesn’t match up is effort level, because Izuki is one of the hardest workers on his team, whereas Rondo mails it in more often than Postman Pat.
Teppei Kiyoshi: Marc Gasol
On the surface, comparing Kiyoshi to the younger Gasol brother may seem as though it just comes down to general suitability.
Both are giants. Gasol is a towering 211 cm tall, while Kiyoshi is 193 as a high school student. Both are physical presences in the paint with pristine two-way games. Both have unfathomable court awareness, and their steely nerves make them natural leaders who make the whole team around them better.
But above all else, Marc Gasol is a whimsical manchild flopping about in a body that frequently seems like it was made for someone else, and that is as succinct a description of Kiyoshi as you could get.
When the Toronto Raptors won the 2018-19 NBA Championship, the goofy Spaniard looked like a kid who had been told that he was having pizza pockets for dinner. He grinned from ear to ear, channelling Freddie Mercury as he basked in the glow of the fans before getting hammered on copious amounts of champagne.
That last one may not quite be Kiyoshi-esque (none of us are ready for drunken Teppei), but that love of the game, through the perspective of pure mirth and warmth, is truly synonymous.
Koichi Kawahara: Brian Scalabrine
If you rack your brain, you could probably come up with about two times you’ve ever seen Kawahara play a game for Seirin. He attends every practice, enthusiastically engages with teammates and his coach on the bench, and yet, cannot ever manage to log any time on the court whatsoever.
Despite this, he gets to share in the adulation of Seirin’s successes, basking in the glory of his much more talented teammates as if he had been a critical part of each victory.
Sound familiar? It should, because it basically mirrors the journey of Brian Scalabrine, who never started more than 17 games in a single season, yet had a long career that saw him win an NBA championship as a member of the Boston Celtics in 2008.
In the playoffs, Scalabrine had 0 points on 0 for 0 shooting, tallying 0 minutes while playing in exactly 0 games. But do we remember his name? Heck yeah we do.
The sky’s the limit, Kawahara. Keep reaching for those stars, and someday you too can be champion.
But what do you think? Any suggestions for NBA parallels for the rest of Seirin’s squad? Or would you like to see us extend the love, and look at some of their rivals like Aomine and Midorima? Spoiler alert: Hanamiya is totally Zaza Pachulia.
There’s plenty of sports shenanigans to enjoy here at AnimeLab, from the ultra kawaii baseball girls of Tamayomi to the buff rugby bishounen scoring tries in number24, so make sure to check out our dedicated sports section for the full range!
It’ll help ease the pain while we wait for the sporting seasons to return, but in actuality, you don’t even have to like sports to enjoy these fun anime! Go ahead… I dare you to say ‘sportsball’ in the comments.