Soccer is becoming a thing in America. Maybe it's already become a thing. I don't really know which is the more fair way to put it, but if you aren't already on board with soccer, well, I suggest you hurry up and make the jump, because soccer is enthralling and in some ways akin to basketball.
If you haven't already made the jump to soccer fandom, my guess is that you often might find yourself scrolling through Twitter wondering what an Aguero is or if this Balotelli people often speak of is more of a marinara or an alfredo type of pasta.
Well, I'm going to do my part to help because I'm feeling philanthropic.
I've set out on a mission to find an English Premier League doppelganger for each one of the Grizzlies starters, so let's begin.
Point Guard - Mike Conley
Doppelganger - Cesc Fabregas, Midfielder, Chelsea FC
This one was one of the easier pairings for me to come up with. Fabregas is the maestro of a vaunted Chelsea attack. Much like Conley for the Grizzlies, Fabregas knows precisely when and how to set up his dangerous teammates for goal-scoring opportunities.
Conley is known around the NBA as being underrated, which is probably fair. But ask any Grizz fan or really anyone that seriously pays attention to the NBA, and they'll tell you just exactly how good Mike Conley really is. Something similar can be said for Fabregas. Ask any Chelsea fan (like me) or any devoted soccer fan/writer/analyst/etc. and they will be the first to tell you that Cesc Fabregas is one of the very best passers and facilitators in the world. But one thing Fabregas does not do at a high rate is score.
This is mostly because that's not his role. And since assists come with far less notoriety than goals, the average soccer fan may not truly appreciate what Fabregas does on the pitch. Just like the average NBA fan might not immediately think of Conley when discussing the top point guards in the NBA. It's not an apple-to-apples comparison, but it's all rooted in the same idea that both are terrific player, yet both, in their own unique ways, are underrated.
OK, you've done enough reading for a minute. As a reward, here are highlights Cesc Fabregas making ridiculous passes.
Shooting Guard - Courtney Lee
Doppelganger - Jesus Navas, Midfielder, Manchester City FC
Courtney Lee was a bit more difficult to pin down because, to my astonishment, when you ask Siri "who is the Premier League doppelganger of a productive three-point shooter who doesn't shoot enough but is probably better than anybody the Grizzlies could get for the money they're paying him and is a more than capable defender but fans always want an upgrade" you don't get a ton of responses.
But a quick shout-out to the homie Matt Hrdlicka (who was my official consultant on this article and who you should most definitely follow on Twitter @theRealHrdlicka because he knows a lot about basketball and soccer but be sure to follow the real one and not the fake one because the fake one is not very genuine) for coming up with the Jesus Navas comparison for Courtney Lee.
So, Navas is not an efficient three-point shooter who fails to, you know, shoot. And, honestly, there aren't a ton of similarities in their styles of play. But he is analogous to Lee in a couple of different ways.
First, neither Navas nor Lee cost their teams very much. Lee is on a great contract, especially relative to the contracts given out to other shooters recently, and Navas came to Man City for a £14.9 million transfer fee - hardly a steep price for a player of his caliber.
Lee's best attribute is his ability to shoot; Navas' is his ability to get out wide, run past defenders and cross balls into the box where teammates can score. Both are criticized for their best skill. Lee because he is often times too reluctant to shoot the three, and the quality of Navas' crosses is sometimes criticized despite leading the team in assists on league goals.
Both players have carved out important roles on good teams; yet, both team's fans often are quick to try and replace the two.
Here's an article I found about Navas' future at Man City from June. Replace Navas with Lee and the soccer terms with basketball terms.
Time for a reading break again. Enjoy some Jesus Navas highlights.
Small Forward - Tony Allen
Doppelganger - Vincent Kompany, Center Back, Manchester City FC
First off, let me say that Tony Allen
may be is the most unique human being on planet Earth. Trying to find someone similar to him could be the plot of the next Mission Impossible movie. Good luck, Tom.
But alas, I have done my best, and I have come up with Vincent Kompany, the giant Belgian who patrols the back for City. (Note: If you're going to try to be a soccer fan then you should really try to catch up on your soccer lingo. There are two teams in Manchester, and they're both, normally, good. So it is appropriate to refer to the two teams as simply United and City as I have just done.)
Kompany is not a Twitter superstar like the beloved Grindfather. In fact, I went and read some of Vincent Kompany's tweets, and it seems like he has a better grasp of the English language than Tony Allen despite English not being his native language.
But one thing that the two have in common is defense. Kompany can defend just about as well as anyone in the Premier League. And like TA, Kompany can get a bit overaggressive and commit fouls.
So, here, have some Vincent Kompany highlights.
Power Forward - Zach Randolph
Doppelganger - Christian Benteke, Striker, Liverpool FC
This one and Marc Gasol's comparison (teaser alert!) are my two favorites because the styles of play and the players are so similar.
Both ZBO and Benteke are considered throwback players for their position. Both are big, and their size and strength make up for their relatively limited skills.
But mainly, Randolph and Benteke are really freaking good and really freaking productive.
Despite neither having an elite skill-set, they have figured out how to rely on their size, strength and sheer brute force to score.
Check out these Benteke highlights and tell me you don't see the ZBO of soccer. (Note: Benteke was recently transferred from Aston Villa to Liverpool hence the Aston Villa highlights.)
Center - Marc Gasol
Doppelganger - Nemanja Matic, Defensive Midfielder, Chelsea FC
This one takes the cake as my favorite Grizz - Premier League comparison.
First, if you just look at the two, there's no way you'd that they are two of the best basketball and soccer players in the world. There's nothing about them aesthetically that screams, :"WORLD-CLASS ATHLETE." They just look like a couple of average Joes (aside from Marc being 7' and Matic being 6'4"),
Next, they are both absolute destroyers of opposing offenses. They are the types of players that players, coaches and fans dread playing against. They both have this innate ability to utterly wreck what the other team's offense is trying to do.
Then, there's the offense. Probably everyone reading this knows that Marc Gasol is exceptionally talented offensively, but seemingly every year, fans beg and plead for Marc to assert himself more on the offensive end. And it occasionally happens, but in the end, Marc is who is he: the best defensive big in the NBA.
True story: If you do a Twitter search using the words "Matic shoot more," you will come up with dozens of Chelsea fans begging for Nemanja Matic to shoot the ball more. That's because in the end, Nemanja is who he is: arguably the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League.
Both Gasol and Matic are part of the glue that holds their teams together. They can disrupt an entire game with their defense, but they're both more than capable offensive players.
Have some Nemanja Matic highlights.
I hope I helped you become slightly more soccer literate, and I also hope that you'll wake up early on Saturdays and Sundays to watch some English Premier League soccer.