Though nothing should be surprising given how this year has gone so far, many may find it odd that the most polarizing word in the United States over the past month is “mask”. Whatever feelings a person may have about whether or not to wear one, it is clear that many places across the country are mandating it become apart of one’s daily attire. The reason behind these new policies is simple: the more masks that are worn, the more likely the spread of the COVID-19 slows down, and the more likely things that once made life normal can return.
Same as sports.
As the sports world continues to ramp up activity and the major sports leagues will hopefully start to resume in a matter of mere days, athletes across each sport are wearing masks themselves in an effort to protect themselves, those around them, their loved ones, and their livelihood. Some have even gone so far as to use the mask as a symbol of style, such as Ja Morant debuting his personal brand logo via a mask. It seems that these athletes understand the importance of wearing and maintaining a mask at all times, and many of them have been used as a way to encourage the rest of us to do the same.
With this is mind, I thought it may be fun to expand the idea of our favorite Grizzlies players in masks and compare a few of them to masked superheroes that they share characteristics with. Though a few of these superheroes may not wear their masks properly, they still cover their face from the rest of the world to protect their identity and livelihood. With that in mind, let’s have some fun imagining how some of Memphis’s favorite athletes might look with superpowers:
Though I also considered Captain America for Memphis’s favorite new hero of the hard court, Morant’s amazing ability in the air just seemed to be so synonymous with everyone’s favorite web slinger. Morant’s ability to contort his body in the air to either finish at the basket or set up an easy finish for one of his teammates is simply amazing. With a rookie season that is already becoming the stuff of legend, it seems Spider-Man is the perfect comparison for Morant as he hopefully leads this generation of Grizzlies to unprecedented success. Furthermore, with another well-known member of his draft class embracing a bit of a menacing persona himself down in New Orleans, Morant and his Memphis-Made Avengers will need to be at the top of their game for years to come.
JAREN JACKSON JR./ BLACK PANTHER
Now in his second season, Jaren Jackson Jr. has certainly emerged as quite a unique talent that the Grizzlies are lucky to have. Though he may have a few areas of his game that are works in progress, his overall presence is certainly felt on both ends of the court. Much like T’Challa of Wakanda, Jackson Jr. is a second generation star, as his father played in the NBA for more than a decade. Also much like his Marvel Superhero counterpart, Jackson Jr. can make an impact in multiple ways. Though his second season is not even over, Jackson. Jr. is one of only three players in NBA history with 180 or more threes and 160 or more blocks through his first two seasons. As he continues to carry on the legacy of his family, Jackson Jr., much like T’Challa, looks ready to establish a tremendous legacy of his own.
Though Bane is mostly considered to be a villain in the annals of DC comic and Batman lore, he still has his moments of good. With Valanciunas’s powerful presence in the post, he gives the Grizzlies a physical edge and helps to establish an advantage in the paint. Whether it is protecting his teammates against opponents, grabbing a rebound at will, or dominating at the rim, Valanciunas has made it clear he has embraced his role as the Grizzlies’ enforcer. And just like Bane on a clear of path of havoc and destruction, if you find yourself in Valanciunas’s way, the results will not often be kind for your cause.
No matter what role he takes on, Brandon Clarke has consistently proven to have ice in his veins. Whether he is relied upon as a starter or reserve, Clarke has emerged as one of the most efficient rookies in NBA history. He freezes his opponents with amazing footwork and intelligence play on both ends of the court, from displaying an amazing touch on floaters or from beyond the arc to finishing at the rim with eye-opening dunks. Just as Sub-Zero protects the EarthRealm in the world of Mortal Kombat, Clarke also does quite well protecting the paint on defense. When called upon, Clarke, just like his Superhero counterpart, typically gets the job done.
DILLON BROOKS/ GREEN ARROW
Brooks has continued to develop his game and role in Memphis, and has certainly stepped into his own as the Grizzlies premier outside shooting threat. Whether it be beyond the arc or from mid-range, Brooks can help establish a successful offensive flow for Memphis on any given night. He has emerged as the Memphis Marksman, and just like when the Green Arrow is accurate for the Justice League, the Grizzlies are at their best when Brooks is hitting his targets (18-4 when Brooks scores 20 or more points.) Furthermore, Brooks can pay tribute to his collegiate days with a large yellow O attached to his green suit whenever he chooses.
DE’ANTHONY MELTON/ WOLVERINE
Few Grizzlies have developed more this season than De’Anthony Melton, and he has done it in a way that was much needed for the roster. He has blossomed in his role as a perimeter defender, as well as showing some play-making ability on offense. However, just like Wolverine is known for his claws, Melton is known for the intelligent use of his hands on defense to cause disruption for opposing offenses. He is one of only six active players to produce a steal percentage of three or better through his first two seasons played (min. 1,990 minutes). No one enjoys having to face Wolverine once he arrives on the scene. Hopefully, the same can be said for opposing back courts when they play Melton and the Grizzlies for years to come.
Though both may be small in stature, Tyus Jones and Ant-Man are tremendous assets to any sports or superhero squad. Both Jones and Ant-Man show tremendous attention to detail and rarely make a mistake. Just as Ant-Man can thwart the plans of his enemies by fitting into places no one else can, Jones can thwart the plans of opposing defenses with intelligent passing to a level few can match. The Grizzlies bench has emerged as one of the best in the NBA with Jones as their floor general, and just like Ant-Man, he is consistent as can be at ensuring his task is completed whenever called upon.
Sports fans across the country cannot wait to have sports back in their lives, but the reality remains that each of these leagues could again be gone if we all do not play our part in remaining healthy. However you may choose, wear a mask and enjoy a significant step toward normalcy.
For your city, the Grizzlies, fellow fans, and yourself, be safe!