The biggest blockbuster movie of all-time hits theaters worldwide today, when Marvel Studios releases the much anticipated Avengers: Infinity War. As the superheroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe take the stage, the NBA’s superstars are also in the spotlight known as the playoffs.
The league’s best players have inspired young and old fans alike with their nightly superheroic feats on the hardwood. Their running, slashing, jumping, and flying exploits show us that these athletes have abilities that are far beyond those of normal human beings. These players are the real-life superheroes that entertain fans with their otherworldly abilities as they battle for supremacy to earn the title to be the greatest of their generation and beyond.
If we were to assign NBA players to the characters in Avengers: Infinity War, who do you think should play Captain America’s role? Who is the NBA’s equivalent of the Hulk? And who is the big, bad dude that’s out to make things difficult as the league’s version of Thanos?
Let’s find out!
*Note: Basic information such as real name, powers, abilities and weapons were taken either from the Marvel Universe Wiki page or the Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki. All images were taken from Marvel Entertainment promo materials.
THANOS AND THE BLACK ORDER
As Thanos seeks to conquer the universe with the Infinity Stones in the upcoming Marvel film, there is one who owns six rings which surpasses those that today’s superstars possess. As we name our superstars who are the Avengers of the league, they are up against the conqueror of the NBA universe—Michael Jordan!
He is ably aided by his henchmen, the Black Order. The members of the Black Order are Corvus Glaive, the one who is most similar to Thanos. And who else is quite like Jordan than Kobe Bryant? Proxima Midnight, one of the chief generals is Magic Johnson. Meanwhile, Ebony Maw is Larry Bird, one of the most vicious members. Then, there’s the Black Dwarf, the team’s powerhouse who is none other than Tim Duncan.
27. Captain America: Chris Paul
Character’s Real Name: Steven “Steve” Rogers
First Appearance: Captain America Comics #1 (1941)
Actor: Chris Evans
Powers: Captain America is the pinnacle of human physical perfection, having his body amplified to far beyond human levels. He has a very high intelligence coupled with extreme agility, strength, speed, endurance, and reaction time.
Abilities: Captain America has mastered American-style boxing and judo, and combined these two disciplines with a hand-to-hand combat style that is uniquely his own.
Weapon: Shield (Vibranium-made)
Captain America is the unquestioned leader of the Avengers. A born leader from the start, Cap is a man out of time who became a war hero after an experimental process turned him into a super soldier. He was frozen in ice for decades before he was later found and chosen to take charge of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Avengers Initiative to protect mankind from its greatest threats.
In the upcoming Infinity War movie, Cap is said to be taking on the Nomad moniker after he gave up his shield at the end of Captain America: Civil War.
The leader of the NBA’s version of the Avengers is none other than Chris Paul. He’s the president of the National Basketball Players Association and a no-nonsense floor general who takes command of every team he plays for. Every time Paul goes to a team, they always improve and become playoff contenders. The moment he played in a Rockets uniform, the team improved by 10 wins. From a 55-27 record, Houston finished the 2016-17 season with the league’s best record at 65-17.
26. Iron Man: Kevin Durant
Character’s Real Name: Anthony Edward “Tony” Stark
First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #39 (1963)
Actor: Robert Downey, Jr.
Abilities: Tony Stark has genius level intellect as an inventor of state-of-the-art weapons, gadgets, and armors.
Weapons: Stark’s Iron Man armor utilizes repulsor technology and a powerful particle beam.
Iron Man is one of the founding members of the Avengers. Tony Stark donned the Iron Man armor as he was trying to escape the clutches of the terrorists who want him to build weapons of mass destruction. He decided to create an armor to escape them and eventually used it to protect the world.
Since then, Stark has improved the armor to make him one of the most powerful superheroes the world had ever seen. The primary weapons in his arsenal are his unibeam and his repulsor rays. Stark has added an array of other offensive weapons and defense systems over the years and has a vast collection of armors that can be used depending on what he needs at the moment.
Just like Iron Man, Durant has a plethora of offensive and defensive weapons at his disposal and can beat you in a number of ways. Offensively, he can drive to the hoop, pull up for a jump shot all the way to the three-point line, and break you down with a crossover dribble. Listed at 6-foot-9, Durant is actually closer to 7 feet. He’s a lethal scorer and an excellent defender, anchoring the Golden State Warriors’ defense along with teammate Draymond Green.
Durant is as complete a basketball player as can be found in the league. He is a formidable opponent and recently joined the pantheon of all-time greats with a championship when he led the Warriors to the pinnacle of success in last year’s NBA Finals. He took home Finals MVP honors and is seeking another championship this season.
25. LeBron James as the Black Panther
Character’s Real Name: T’Challa
First Appearance: Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #52 (1966)
Actor: Chadwick Boseman
Powers: Due to the mystical properties of the heart-shaped herb found in Wakanda, Black Panther’s senses and physical abilities have been augmented to superhuman levels.
Abilities: Black Panther is one of the best tacticians in the Marvel Universe. He is a master strategist and tracker while also a master of various forms of combat techniques.
Weapon: A vibranium-weave costume that absorbs the kinetic force of impacts.
I went into greater detail on this in a previous post titled, “LeBron James is the Black Panther of the NBA,” but here’s a summary of who the Black Panther is and why the Cavaliers forward is the NBA’s closest incarnation of the Marvel superhero.
T’Challa is the latest Black Panther in a long line of his ancestors who have taken on the mantle. As such, he can utilize the knowledge, strength, and experience of his ancestors to take down an opponent. Black Panther’s costume is made from vibranium, a fictional metallic ore that was used to create his costume, making him invulnerable to almost any attack.
Additionally, Black Panther is the King of Wakanda and serves his nation as its protector as much its leader.
James is also known as The King of Cavs Nation, the fictional country of all Cavaliers fans. His indestructibility is highlighted by his proven track record of playing in nearly every game since he entered the league. In fact, James just finished the regular season as the league’s leader in minutes played and was able to play all 82 games in his 15th year.
His knowledge of the game, innate skills, and body-type are a combination of the greats that have come before him. He’s Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Karl Malone combined into one body. That’s a lethal combination and this has allowed him to achieve more than what appears to be possible in an NBA player’s career.
24. Hulk: Anthony Davis
Character’s Real Name: Robert Bruce Banner
First Appearance: Incredible Hulk #1 (1962)
Actor: Mark Ruffalo
Powers: The Hulk is incredibly strong and as he gets angrier, he becomes stronger. There is almost no limit to how strong he can be as his strength increases proportionately to the level of his anger.
Abilities: His alter ego, Dr. Bruce Banner, is a genius in nuclear physics but he is unable to tap into this intelligence while in his Hulk persona. Banner can only influence the Hulk’s behavior in a limited capacity.”
The incredible Hulk is one of the strongest superheroes in Marvel Comics and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well. He is considered a monster by many but also a hero by those whose lives he’s saved.
The Hulk is another founding member of the Avengers when he was used by Loki to destroy a train trestle. In the same manner as the comics, the movie version of the Green Goliath was used by the trickster god into attacking the rest of the Avengers by manipulating his mind.
Unlike most superheroes who have peak strength, the Hulk gets stronger as he gets angrier, making him stronger than almost any being in the universe. When in the presence of a calm person, however, the Jade Giant is as gentle as any creature, capable of both pity and compassion just like normal humans.
Anthony Davis is the NBA’s version of the Hulk because he puts up monster numbers across the board especially when he is motivated. After fellow All-Star DeMarcus Cousins went down with an injury in late January, everyone believed that the New Orleans Pelicans were done for the season. But Davis wouldn’t let them lose. Perhaps getting angry from all the naysayers about his team, Davis transformed himself into his Hulk-like version, putting up huge numbers that ranked right up there with the league’s all-time greats.
23. Russell Westbrook as Thor
Thor: Russell Westbrook
Character’s Real Name: Thor Odinson
First Appearance: Venus #12 (1951)
Actor: Chris Hemsworth
Powers: Thor is extremely strong with the endurance and resistance to injury that is becoming of an Asgardian Thunder God. With the use of his hammer, Mjolnir, Thor is able to command the weather and summon lightning at will.
Abilities: Thor is a well-trained warrior and skilled in the art of war.
Weapons: Mjolnir, a hammer that was forged from uru metal.
Thor, the son of Odin, and known to many as the God of Thunder. He was full of pride at the beginning but when he learned humility through his father’s discipline, he was able again to wield Mjolnir, the mystical hammer that could only be lifted by those who are deemed worthy by Odin’s spell.
The Thunder God can go toe-to-toe with the Hulk and has won a few battles against him. He is the heir to the throne of Asgard and is a worthy successor to his father.
Russell Westbrook is the NBA’s God of (Oklahoma City) Thunder. His speed, quickness, agility, and power are otherworldly as if he came from another dimension and is simply toying with mere mortals. The 6-foot-4 point guard averaged a triple-double for an entire season and was able to repeat the unbelievable feat this year. He is the first player to average a triple-double more than once.
Westbrook has an explosive first step and is able to get to the rim arguably faster than any player in the league. Once there, he finishes with a thunderous slam that rocks the rim to its core. The talented point guard has an uncanny ability to sense where the ball will bounce at almost any given time, making him one of the league’s best rebounders regardless of his size disadvantage.
22. Hawkeye: Stephen Curry
Character’s Real Name: Clinton Francis “Clint” Barton
First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #57 (1964)
Actor: Jeremy Renner
Abilities: Hawkeye is an expert archer and marksman. Due to his above average reflexes and hand-eye-coordination, he has developed himself into the most proficient archer on the planet. He is also an expert in various weaponry.
Weapons: Bow and arrow.
Hawkeye is the Avengers’ marksman who is an expert in the use of a bow and arrow. His accuracy is uncanny, making him one of the most deadly weapons users in the comics and in the MCU. His bow and arrows are like an extension of his arms.
He is also an expert in hand-to-hand combat, and is one of the most skilled fighters. In the MCU, Hawkeye is an assassin in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s employ and was once assigned to eliminate Black Widow but had enough sense to help her become a valuable asset instead.
With his three-point marksmanship, there is no NBA player quite like Hawkeye than Stephen Curry. His pinpoint accuracy at making the ball go through the hoop almost has no range limit. Curry can make a three-point shot from way beyond the three-point line. He is the NBA’s all-time leader in the regular season with a record of 402 three-pointers.
Curry is arguably the greatest shooter in league history. Not only can he shoot from the outside but he can also beat you with his dribbling wizardry while driving to the hoop. The other half of the Warriors’ Splash Brothers is a two-time MVP and the 2015 All-Star Three-Point Contest champion.
21. Falcon: Aaron Gordon
Character’s Real Name: Samuel Thomas “Sam” Wilson
First Appearance: Captain America #117 (1969)
Actor: Anthony Mackie
Powers: The comic book version can telepathically communicate with his pet falcon, Redwing, and with any birds within a certain undisclosed radius. In the MCU, Falcon doesn’t have this ability.
Abilities: As a former military, Falcon is an expert hand-to-hand combatant, martial artist, and marksman.
Weapons: Falcon uses two machine pistols in his EXO-7 suit along with other offensive weapons.
Falcon is the high-flying Avenger propelled by his mechanical wings to take him to the air and either do battle with other flying enemies or do reconnaissance. His flying abilities coupled with his training make him a formidable opponent.
He is best known as the sidekick to Captain America in his earliest appearances in the comics but has since become more than that.
Recently, he took on the mantle of Captain America when Steve Rogers became old after the Super Soldier serum that slowed down his aging was removed from his system. After becoming the new Captain America, Sam Wilson, his alter ego, retained his winged costume while carrying the shield associated with Cap.
In the MCU, Falcon was a former air force pilot who used the wings for his missions. As an Avenger, he is one of the most trustworthy members of the team and a loyal ally to Captain America.
Due to his high-flying forays to the hoop, Aaron Gordon best represents Falcon. He displayed his athleticism in full in the 2016 All-Star Slam Dunk Contest when he and Zach LaVine staged a dunk contest for the ages. Even though he lost, Gordon had the best dunks of the evening and only lost due to a technicality.
Gordon is one of the best young players in the NBA and his shots are no longer limited to short jumpers, layups or dunks. He is developing into a more well-rounded player but his primary strength is still above the rim. His dunks have been highlight reel material since he entered the league.
20. Black Widow: Damian Lillard
Character’s Real Name: Natalia “Natasha” Alianovna Romanova
First Appearance: Tales of Suspense #52 (1964)
Actor: Scarlett Johansson
Powers: In the comics, Black Widow was given treatments to slow down her aging, improve her immune system, and enhance her durability.
Abilities: Black Widow is one of the best spies and lethal assassins on the planet. She is highly skilled in various forms of martial arts and hand-to-hand combat.
Weapons: She owns the Black Widow’s Bite, an electroshock weapon that delivers powerful eletrical discharges from her two bracelets. She also has her Batons which sends electrical shocks to take down her targets.
Black Widow was a Russian assassin who became an Avenger after she turned back from her killing ways. In the movies, Hawkeye was instrumental in her transformation into a hero. She has since become a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and is routinely assigned to espionage and bringing in hostiles.
With her training and skills, she is more than a match for just about any opponent, no matter how big or small. Despite joining the good guys, Black Widow is still as deadly as her namesake.
Damian Lillard is a cold-blooded assassin on the hardwood. Whether driving to the hoop or knocking down long-range bombs, Lillard is one of the most clutch players in the league. He ranked 10th in clutch points in the regular season, draining threes in the direst situations to bail out the Portland Trail Blazers time and time again.
Like Black Widow, Lillard is a fearless, cold-blooded assassin in shorts who has few peers skills-wise.
19. Scarlet Witch: Draymond Green
Character’s Real Name: Wanda Maximoff
First Appearance: X-Men #4 (1964)
Actor: Elizabeth Olsen
Powers: As Maria Hill said from Avengers: age of Ultron, “Her thing is neuro-electric interfacing, telekinesis, mental manipulation.” In other words, Scarlet Witch can “project energy blasts, waves and bolts projecting her own psionic and telekinetic energy.” She has also shown the ability to read minds and can elicit a person’s fears or emotional pain.
The Scarlet Witch’s powers and her lineage have been retconned for as long as can be remembered. Early on, her special abilities were called hex powers. Her hex powers were deemed reality-bending powers as it manipulates probabilities, turning them to her favor. However, these powers are unpredictable and may result in reality gone too wrong.
She is also one of the most powerful Avengers due to this unpredictability.
Her cinematic version has exhibited various powers that she is also still learning to manipulate. Based on the movies, she has telekinesis (can move objects with her mind) and low-level telepathic powers. She can bring to the forefront the fears of her enemies and in one instance, she was able to “read” Ultron’s mind.
Like Scarlet Witch, Draymond Green has multiple abilities at his disposal. He can score, rebound, pass the ball, and play outstanding defense. He is the Warriors’ best playmaker, averaging 7 or more assists per game for the past three seasons. He’s a triple-double waiting to happen.
But just like the Marvel character, there’s a certain unpredictability about his game, too. You sometimes don’t know if he will shoot well from the outside or he’ll suddenly become volatile and take himself, and the team, out of a game. Fortunately for Golden State, Green is often an asset more than a liability as he is often the team’s x-factor in games. What you can count on the most with Green is his hustle and heart every game.
18. Vision: James Harden
Character’s Real Name: Vision
First Appearance: Avengers (Vol. 1) #57
Actor: Paul Bettany
Powers: Vision has the ability to control his density, capable of making himself intangible or extremely dense (diamond-hard) at his command. He has superhuman strength and can fly at will. He can also use the Mind Stone on his forehead to shoot intense energy beams.
Vision is one of the most powerful members of the Avengers. He’s an android who was created to be a weapon against them but became their ally instead. Vision can defeat his enemies in various ways. As an android, he’s cold and calculating but he also has the heart of a human, no matter how unusual that may be.
His most powerful weapon has to be the Solar Jewel on his forehead which he can use to discharge incredible power to destructive effects. In the movies, the jewel on his forehead is the Mind Stone, one of the Infinity Stones that Thanos is searching for. He has used this as a weapon to help defeat Ultron and in the airport fight scene as well.
In the comics, the Android Avenger knows how to take charge as well, having been the leader of the team for a time.
Able to score in so many ways, James Harden is very much like the Vision. He can score inside, outside, and go to the line to nail his free-throws as he frequently gets fouled by his opponents. As the Solar Jewel/Mind Stone is Vision’s most powerful weapon, Harden’s step-back jumper is its equivalent. Many have tried in vain to stop Harden from taking and making this shot. Just ask Wesley Johnson.
Harden’s ability to score at will makes him one of the most unguardable players in the league. This season has been his time to shine in the spotlight as he led the league in scoring and is poised to earn his first MVP Award. The announcement is just a formality.
17. War Machine: DeMarcus Cousins
Character’s Real Name: James “Jim” Rupert Rhodes
First Appearance: Iron Man #118 (1979)
Actor: Don Cheadle
Abilities: Rhodes is a well-trained pilot and as a military man, is an excellent hand-to-hand combatant.
Weapons: With the War Machine armor, Rhodes has a various number of weapons at his fingertips. It has a mini-gun, a rocket launcher, a sonic canon, repulsors, and a unibeam.
War Machine is Iron Man’s best buddy James Rhodes. His military experience makes him a well-trained individual before he even became a superhero. For a time, Rhodes was Iron Man when Stark became an alcoholic. This gave Rhodes some time in the limelight as a member of the Avengers. He would eventually have his own armor and be named War Machine.
The cinematic War Machine has similarities to his comic book equivalent as he was also Iron Patriot for a time before becoming War Machine again. The armor gives Rhodey an assortment of weapons at his disposal and makes him one of the heavy hitters on the Avengers squad. Despite being injured during the airport battle in the Civil War movie, Rhodey is expected to suit up again to battle Thanos in Infinity War.
Though he was the lone star with the Sacramento Kings, DeMarcus Cousins ultimately became a co-star with Anthony Davis as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans. Cousins, like War Machine, has an array of moves to the basket while also able to hit his jumpers. There’s something machine-like about Cousins’ game since you can practically count on him for at least 20 points and 10 rebounds every night since his rookie year.
He was injured in January, keeping him from the Pelicans’ incredible playoff run. But he is expected to come back strong next year. When that happens, the 4-time All-Star will be back with a vengeance!
16. Ant-Man: Kemba Walker
Character’s Real Name: Scott Lang
Actor: Paul Rudd
Powers: By using his helmet, Ant-Man has the ability to shrink himself to the size of an ant and communicate telepathically with them. He can punch at any size with the same force as a normal-sized person.
Abilities: Electronics expert
Weapons: The helmet allows An-Man to communicate with and control insects, particularly, ants.
He can manipulate his size and make himself small enough to fit through almost any space imaginable. Despite his small stature, Hank Pym (the original Ant-Man), told Scott Lang that he has “the force of a 200-pound man behind a fist a hundredth of an inch wide.” In battles, Ant-Man is a difficult target for his enemies as he is a capable fighter and, with his size manipulation abilities, has an advantage over most of them.
When necessary, he can also grow in size, turning into Giant Man and wreaking havoc in battle as depicted in the airport battle scene in Captain America: Civil War.
Kemba Walker is listed as 6-foot-1 but is probably closer to 5-foot-11. But don’t let his smallish size fool you. Walker’s game packs a wallop, leading the Charlotte Hornets in scoring and assists. The Hornets point guard comes up big during crunch time, too.
Walker is a terrific ball-handler and is able to drive to the middle of the paint to score at will despite the presence of bigger opponents. Just like Ant-Man, his size is not a limiting factor and is, in fact, often an advantage for him over his opponents who are unable to catch up to him.
15. Wasp: Isaiah Thomas
Character’s Real Name: Hope Van Dyne
First Appearance: Tales to Astonish #44 (Janet Van Dyne) / A-Next #7 (Hope Van Dyne)
Actor: Evangeline Lilly
Powers: Flight, size reduction, and bio-electric blasts
Abilities: Hope was trained by her father in hand-to-hand combat; she has leadership skills that she may have caught from her mom.
Weapons: She may have wrist stingers like the original Wasp.
As small as she is, Wasp is not someone you should look down on. Hope Van Dyne is the daughter of the original Wasp and the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym. In the comics, she was a super-villain but in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she is portrayed as the rightful heir to her mom’s Wasp identity.
Though we haven’t seen her in the MCU yet, it is expected that as the Wasp, Hope has increased strength as she reduces in size. Her bio-electric blasts, a.k.a. “wasp’s stings” should be capable of bringing down villains with just one shot. Her wings also make her a difficult target for her enemies as she can fly out of harm’s way and neutralize opponents before they know what hit them.
Based on the “Ant-Man” movie alone, Hope appears to have the same leadership skills that her mother had in the comics. Janet Van Dyne used to be the leader of the Avengers and she did an excellent job of guiding the team on their missions even with Captain America around.
Though Hope’s first true appearance in the MCU as the Wasp is said to be in “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” there’s a chance that she could appear briefly in Infinity War even in a cameo.
Despite his minuscule physical stature at 5-foot-9, Isaiah Thomas is not one to be trifled with. The former MVP candidate is quick and agile. He can take his man off the dribble and “sting” them with timely three-point jumpers. He had his best year during the 2016-17 NBA season and was explosive especially in the playoffs.
Though still recovering from an injury, Thomas showed flashes of his old form when he joined the Los Angeles Lakers at the trade deadline. He scored at least 20 points in five of their first eight games in March, with a high of 29 against the Miami Heat, showing that when given the opportunity, Thomas can still sting ‘em.
14. Winter Soldier: DeMar DeRozan
Character’s Real Name: James Buchanan Barnes
First Appearance: Captain America Comics #1 (1941)
Actor: Sebastian Stan
Abilities: As the Winter Soldier, Bucky is a world-class athlete and a highly-trained fighter. He’s an expert marksman and an expert with the use of various weapons.
Weapons: Hand gun, a combat knife, sniper rifles and many other automatic weapons.
The Winter Soldier was bred as a killing machine by the Soviet Union in the comics but he was a Hydra assassin in the MCU. In both incarnations, Bucky had no memory of his past as a friend and ally of Captain America when he fell into the enemy’s hands. They brainwashed Bucky in order to use him for missions that required killing particular individuals.
Captain America eventually got through to him and he has since become a protector of innocents once again. As the Winter Soldier, Bucky is an excellent marksman with guns as his weapons of choice. His precise and accurate shooting makes him a dangerous foe but a valuable ally.
In the comics, he even took over the Captain America identity after Steve Rogers was believed to be dead.
In the NBA, few are better than DeMar DeRozan as a clutch shooter. He’s got the killer instinct just as Winter Soldier is a killing machine. DeRozan is second only to James in the league with 171 points in clutch situations according to NBA.com’s advanced stats.
Quiet and unassuming, DeRozan is as deadly as they come. Known mostly as a mid-range shooter, DeRozan has extended his range to the three-point line and the Toronto Raptors are all the better for it. He has also become a more adept passer with a career-high 5.2 assists per game.
Because of his expanded game, the Raptors have turned into the East’s best team, leading the conference this season with a 59-23 record and the number one seed.
13. Spider-Man: Kyrie Irving
Character’s Real Name: Peter Benjamin Parker
First Appearance: Amazing Fantasy #15 (1962)
Actor: Tom Holland
Powers: Spider-Man has superhuman strength and can cling to almost any surface. He has a spider-sense that warns him of any danger.
Abilities: As Peter Parker, he is a brilliant scientist, an inventor and also a very good photographer.
One of the most famous superheroes of all-time, Spider-Man learned the burden of responsibility through tragedy. Since then, he has turned himself into one of the most selfless superheroes the world has ever known.
Spider-Man is as agile as any super-powered individual which he displays on a regular basis as he swings around New York City’s skyscrapers with the greatest of ease. His spider-sense allows him to weave his way around danger with uncanny accuracy as it warns him of danger before it even happens.
Similarly, the Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving learned the burden of responsibility early in the season when Gordon Hayward, one of the team’s stars, was injured in their season opener. Irving had to carry the team on his back until his own injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Just like the Webslinger, Irving is able to move and contort his body in ways no one ever deemed possible when he drives to the hoop or escapes for a jump shot. With his dribbling ability that is second to none, Irving can weave his way between two or more defenders. His moves on the basketball court are reminiscent of the Webslinger’s ability to evade his enemies’ attacks. Irving is perhaps the agilest player in the league and certainly worthy of being called the NBA’s Spider-Man.
12. Doctor Strange: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Character’s Real Name: Stephen Vincent Strange
First Appearance: Strange Tales #110 (1963)
Actor: Benedict Cumberbatch
Powers: Doctor Strange is able to manipulate magical forces, levitate, teleport, astral project, and manipulate time.
Abilities: Doctor Strange is one of the best physicians in the world and is a skilled martial artist after much training with the Ancient One.
A Master of the Mystic Arts, Doctor Strange came to learn from the Ancient One initially to help him with a physical injury that kept him from practicing his craft as a doctor. Once he became the Sorcerer Supreme, he mastered various spells as he draws on the powers of multiple mystical entities. He also uses mystical artifacts in his battle against the forces of evil. He can also traverse dimensions to move from one place to the next. Among the many mystical artifacts, Doctor Strange uses the Cloak of Levitation, the Eye of Agamotto, and the Sling Ring.
No one expected Giannis Antetokounmpo to master the skills that he has now but he has developed into an MVP candidate as one of the best players in the league. Like Doctor Strange, he learned from his Ancient One, Jason Kidd, on how to become a better basketball player. There are many ways by which Antetokounmpo can beat opposing teams. A multi-dimensional player, he can also play defense with the best of them.
Also, like the Sorcerer Supreme, he suddenly appears out of nowhere. One moment, he’s dribbling from half-court, the next he’s at the rim dunking on you as if he just teleported out of nowhere.
The New York Knicks’ Tim Hardaway Jr. was the recipient of one of Antetokounmpo’s “surprise appearances” during a fastbreak. The Bucks forward caught an alley-oop pass and was suddenly on top of Hardaway as he soared to the hoop for a slam. As the replays will show, Hardaway was shocked to see Antetokounmpo suddenly appear overhead.
11. Valkyrie: Carmelo Anthony
Character’s Real Name: Unknown
First Appearance: as Brunnhilde, The Avengers #83 (December 1970); as Samantha Parrington, Incredible Hulk #142 (1971)
Actor: Tessa Thompson
Powers: Superhuman strength, speed, durability, longevity, and the ability to commune with spirits of the dead
The Valkyrie in the MCU is a different version from the one who was a member of the first Defenders team in the comics. The one who appeared in Thor: Ragnarok is one of the many members of the Valkyrie Force that Odin sent to battle Hela and bring her back to prison. Unfortunately, the mission ended with a massacre and she was the only Valkyrie left.
This unnamed Valkyrie sought to drown out her past by exiling herself from Asgard, alcoholism, and working for the Grandmaster as an acquirer of contenders for his gladiatorial matches. She soon teamed up with Thor and the Hulk to save Asgard from the clutches of Hela and has found new life together with the two superheroes.
Valkyrie possesses superhuman strength, great speed, durability, and longevity. She’s a fighter of the highest order and only needed to find her place in the universe once again in order to gain purpose.
Much like Valkyrie, Carmelo Anthony is looking to redeem himself from a painful separation with the New York Knicks. Once their unquestioned leader and a perennial All-Star, Anthony needed a change of scenery to regain a sense of purpose in the league. He found it by teaming up with Russell Westbrook and Paul George in the Oklahoma City. Though he has yet to really fit in (he is still a bit lost at times in the rotation), few can deny that Anthony can explode on any given night with his natural scoring ability.
Anthony is a premier scorer and if given the right opportunity, the Thunder can expect him to continue shooting and scoring with the best to ever play the game.
10. Captain Marvel: Ben Simmons
Character’s Real Name: Carol Danvers
First Appearance: Marvel Super-Heroes #13 (1967)
Actor: Brie Larson
Powers: Captain Marvel is able to fly, has superhuman strength, durable, and she can shoot concussive energy blasts.
Abilities: As Carol Danvers, she is a skilled pilot and excels in hand-to-hand combat.
Carol Danvers is the successor to the alien Kree-born Captain Marvel. Her human DNA was fused with the alien DNA of Mar-Vell (Captain Marvel). Because of this, Danvers gained super powers that one could only dream of. After Mar-Vell died, Carol would eventually take over the title after many years and become a leader of the Avengers.
Captain Marvel hasn’t appeared in the MCU yet and her debut solo film won’t be released until next year. However, rumors have it that she will make an appearance in Infinity War somehow and it looks like she may have been somewhere in the MCU before the Avengers came along. Chances are, she’ll appear briefly in the ensemble film before she spins off into her solo adventure.
Another rumor has it that Captain Marvel will be one of the leaders of a new Avengers team when Avengers 4 rolls around.
Aussie Ben Simmons is making waves with the Philadelphia 76ers as one of the pillars of the team alongside Joel Embiid. The 6-foot-10 “alien” (he’s Australian, right?) looks like someone fused his DNA with that of Magic Johnson, making him the tallest point guard in NBA history. His “powers” include being a triple-double threat every game that he plays, shooting a high percentage of his shots, leadership, and playing a high-level of defense.
Just as Captain Marvel is likely to lead the Avengers at some point in the MCU, Simmons will be leading the Sixers, and perhaps the entire NBA, very soon.
9. Quicksilver: John Wall
Character’s Real Name: Pietro Django Maximoff
First Appearance: X-Men #4 (March 1964)
Actor: Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Powers: Quicksilver possesses incredible superhuman speed and he can exceed the speed of sound.
Abilities: Though not a natural fighter, Quicksilver is an adept in combat as he was trained by none other than Captain America himself.
The other half of the Maximoff twins, Quicksilver is one of Marvel’s fastest superheroes and can break the sound barrier if he so chooses. His MCU version, however, hadn’t shown this kind of speed in the movies until his untimely death in Avengers: Age of Ultron. However, rumors have it that Quicksilver may be resurrected in Avengers: Infinity War. If that happens we may finally see him reach his full potential that’s been displayed in the comics.
Quicksilver is a mutant, or at least he was until Marvel retconned his origin (and Scarlet Witch’s) to distance him and his sister from their mutant heritage due to Fox and Marvel movie rights issues. It’s a long, messy story, trust me.
With his speed, Quicksilver has a quick reaction time and can take out an enemy before he can be seen moving.
In the NBA, no one can match the end-to-end speed of the Washington Wizards’ John Wall. He is as quick going from one baseline to the next as any.
According to coach Scott Brooks via CBS, “Going basket to basket, [Wall] can get there in 2.5 seconds,” Brooks said, according to Page. “So if you can get there in 2.5 seconds, you can make two or three passes. He is as fast as anybody in this league, probably in the history (of the NBA).”
The fleet-footed Wall can take his man off the dribble and is an improved three-point shooter. He can beat you by scoring or finding the open man as he is always among the league leaders in assists. Wall is also an exceptional defender and this season averaged 1.1 blocks per game.
8. Nick Fury: Gregg Popovich
Character’s Real Name: Nicholas Joseph Fury
First Appearance: Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #1 (1963) / Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #5 (August 2001)
Actor: Samuel L. Jackson
Abilities: Nick Fury is a highly-trained military officer who “has completed Green and Black Beret Special Forces training, and has been an agent of the O.S.S. (Office of Special Services) and a liaison of the MI-5 (British Secret Intelligence).” Fury is a seasoned veteran and an excellent strategist and tactician.
Weapons: Any firearm.
The MCU’s Nick Fury brought the Avengers together with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s “Avengers Initiative.” He’s a super spy for the organization and arguably the best one ever. His comic book counterpart is from the Ultimate Marvel line of comics that has since been discontinued. The artist, Bryan Hitch, reimagined Nick Fury (formerly a Caucasian) as a black man who looks exactly like Samuel L. Jackson.
Fury is usually the one who knows why everything is happening the way they are happening with access to many of the world’s secrets. He’s the man with the plan, always two steps ahead of everyone else. He’s a seasoned veteran of countless wars and survived them all.
No one else in the NBA is quite as seasoned and as wise as Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. Of all the coaches in the league, Pop is the epitome of Nick Fury, someone who has learned through two decades of going to war on the hardcourt that you need to have a plan for when your plans fail.
Pop has survived the retirement of David Robinson and helped the team transition to Tim Duncan. After Duncan’s own retirement, and now Kawhi Leonard’s absence for much of the 2017-18 season, the NBA’s wise old sage will find a way for the Spurs to be relevant once again.
THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
As for the Guardians of the Galaxy, we couldn’t leave them behind, can we? They’re a part of the movie, too! Let’s see who their NBA counterparts are!
7. Star-Lord: Victor Oladipo
Character’s Real Name: Peter Jason Quill
First Appearance: Marvel Preview #4 (1976)
Actor: Chris Pratt
Powers: Star-Lord is half-human and half-celestial because of his human mother and his celestial father, Ego. He had untapped superhuman abilities but after Ego’s death, he became a regular human.
Abilities: Star-Lord is highly a skilled marksman, a proficient hand-to-hand combatant, a master thief, and a well-trained pilot.
Weapons: Hadron Enforcer, Quad blasters, and energy bolas
Star-Lord was taken from his earthly home to be introduced to his father. But the space-faring Ravagers took him in with Yondu taking on the father-figure assignment. Soon, he found a new family when a group of them formed the Guardians of the Galaxy. He leads the team to defend the galaxy at all costs.
Victor Oladipo didn’t find his true superstar potential with the Orlando Magic nor with the Thunder. But after he was traded to the Indiana Pacers, that’s when his career took on a whole new level. Oladipo now leads the Pacers in the playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It remains to be seen how far he can take them but there are few players who can say that they have a shot at the Most Improved Player award like Oladipo.
6. Gamora: Jimmy Butler
Character’s Real Name: Gamora
First Appearance: Strange Tales #180 (1975)
Actor: Zoe Saldana
Abilities: Gamora is a master assassin, an expert hand-to-hand combatant, highly-trained marksman and a sword master
Weapons: Godslayer, cybernetic skeleton and ocular and respiratory implants
Known as “The Deadliest Woman in the Whole Galaxy,” Gamora is the last of her species called the Zen-Whoberis. Thanos adopted her as a child to use her as a weapon. In time, when she discovered her evil stepdad’s ways, Gamora sought to mend her ways and stop Thanos from destroying all life in the universe.
Even in the MCU, Gamora is a proficient fighter and a deadly opponent for anyone, but she has the heart to save the universe from her father. By joining the Guardians, she sought to redeem herself from her past. Even so, Gamora’s killer instincts remain which she has to keep in check. But if she faces Thanos in Infinity War, she might not hold back any longer if she wants to stop the Mad Titan.
Jimmy Butler made a huge difference for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season, leading the team to the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. Like Gamora, he brought his killer instincts to his new team after coming from the Bulls. His 132 total points in the clutch this season ranks him 8th among all players in the league.
If the T-Wolves want to make it out of the first round, Butler will have to step up and show everyone once again why he’s an All-Star.
5. Rocket Raccoon: Kyle Lowry
Character’s Real Name: Rocket Raccoon
First Appearance: Marvel Preview #7 (1976)
Actor: Bradley Cooper
Powers: Rocket has genius-level intellect, enhanced strength, enhanced durability, enhanced agility and acute senses.
Abilities: Rocket is a master tactician, a master marksman, a master pilot, a master engineer and an expert combatant
Weapons: Ion cannon, rocket cannon, gas grenade, hadron enforcer, aero-rigs and nanobot-welder
A weapons expert, Rocket Raccoon is a skilled marksman who has a mean streak owing perhaps to his smallish stature. He’s a master tactician and was the leader of the Guardians for a time in the comics when Star-Lord was trapped in the Negative Zone. Always thinking ahead, he can break out of every prison he gets placed in and has done so multiple times. Despite his height disadvantage, Rocket almost always has the advantage in battle due to his intelligence and cunning.
He may be shorter than most players but Kyle Lowry has the tools and the weapons to get the advantage over his opponents. A 4-time All-Star, Lowry was able to showcase his immense talents once he was traded to the Raptors where he found a home with the Canadian ballclub.
His three-point shooting has become one of his best weapons while keeping his all-around game at its peak during the Raptors most successful season in franchise history. This season, he became a better floor general, leading the Raptors to the Atlantic Division title and the best record in the Eastern Conference.
4. Drax: Dwight Howard
Character’s Real Name: Arthur Sampson Douglas
First Appearance: Iron Man #55 (1973)
Actor: Dave Bautista
Powers: Drax possesses superhuman strength, durability and agility. He also has a regenerative healing factor
Abilities: Drax is adept with the use of knives and is an expert hand-to-hand combatant
Drax isn’t as funny as the movies make him out to be. And he isn’t called the Destroyer for nothing, either. Though his later incarnations are not as strong as the original, there are few beings stronger or more dangerous than Drax who now uses knives in battle. He joined the Guardians of the Galaxy after being recruited by Star-Lord.
Few players are bigger and stronger than the Charlotte Hornets’ Dwight Howard. Though not as good as he used to be during his All-Star days, Howard has the ability to take over games. Notable was his 32-point, 30-rebound game late this season versus the Brooklyn Nets. Given the right team and the right circumstances, Howard continues to be one of the better players in the game.
And just like the MCU version of Drax, Howard is quite the funny guy, too!
3. Groot: Kristaps Porzingis
Character’s Real Name: Groot
First Appearance: Tales to Astonish #13 (1960)
Actor: Vin Diesel
Powers: Groot possesses superhuman strength and durability, as well as elasticity, body manipulation and light generation
Abilities: Due to his incredible strength, Groot is a raw yet effective combatant
Groot was introduced by Marvel Comics in 1960 but didn’t reappear until 2006 during the “Annihilation: Conquest” storyline. He is a tall, sentient, tree-like being whose only words are “I am Groot.” He can enhance his strength and extend his branches when necessary. He is a protector of the innocent and defends them using his own tree-like body which is quite resilient.
As one of the tallest players in the NBA at 7-foot-3, Kristaps Porzingis is excellent on both offense and defense. He is a nightmare to guard and to go up against due to his immense height advantage. Porzingis can shoot the three and play inside, a true embodiment of today’s stretch four players. After Anthony was traded, Porzingis has taken over the team and is now the cornerstone of the Knicks franchise.
2. Mantis: Kevin Love
Character’s Real Name: Unknown
First Appearance: Avengers #112 (1973)
Actor: Pom Klementieff
Powers: Empathy, empathic manipulation and enhanced durability
Abilities: If she has similar abilities from the comics, then the MCU version of Mantis should have “‘complete control’ over her body, achieving peak human agility, the ability to accelerate her recuperative powers through force of will, and an empathic nature enabling her to sense the emotions of others as ‘psychic vibrations.’” She may also be an expert martial artist.
The comic book version of Mantis is a strong and highly trained fighter while also having psychic empathy, a telepathic power that gives her the ability to sense emotions in other beings. This combination of fighting ability and empathy makes her both a formidable foe and an excellent teammate.
Among the league’s players, Kevin Love has shown that he can be one of the game’s best while also being the perfect teammate. With the Cavs, Love puts up nightly double-doubles while averaging close to 20 points and 10 rebounds a game throughout his career.
When his commitment to the team was questioned by his teammates early this year after he left a game with an illness, Love didn’t fight back. He simply rolled with the “punches” and returned to play once he was ready. Additionally, Love empathized with DeRozan’s depression and shared his own bouts with it earlier in the season.
1. Nebula: Devin Booker
Character’s Real Name: Unknown
First Appearance: Avengers #257 (1985)
Actor: Karen Gillan
Abilities: Nebula is an advanced strategist and a strong but ruthless leader. She is a master assassin, an expert combatant, pilot and marksman.
Weapons: Cybernetic enhancements, electroshock weapons and various high-tech devices of alien origin
As dangerous as Gamora is, her step-sister Nebula is perhaps just as deadly. According to the Marvel Universe Wiki page, she is “feared across numerous star systems for her ruthless piracy.” She first appeared as an enemy of the Avengers and has faced the Silver Surfer at times as well.
As in the comics, the MCU version of Nebula is ruthless and cunning, the perfect weapon that could have continuously been used by Thanos if she had stayed on his side. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Nebula joined the Guardians in defeating Ego, the Living Planet. From there, she decided to seek Thanos on her own to kill him herself.
Devin Booker has the killer mentality that Nebula possesses and is one of the bright young stars of the league. In the same way that Nebula looked up to her older sibling, Gamora, so did Booker look up to and patterned his mindset to Bryant’s. The shooting guard is one of the few players in league annals to score at least 70 points in a game.
This young, rising star doesn’t back down from anyone and is probably as “ruthless” on the court as Bryant was during his playing days. Given the right set of teammates, Booker can someday lead the league in scoring while on a winning team. With the highest chances of landing the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns may soon give Booker a comparable teammate that could complement his enormous talents.