Anthony Davis: The Only Player Able to Match the Man of Steel

Published: April 29, 2014

If you have been watching the NBA playoffs, you probably have caught some of Shaquille O’neal’s comments about Dwight Howard. If you haven’t, it all started at half time of the first game between the Rockets and Trailblazers when Shaq ripped Howard’s first half performance. He critiqued his low post form. He begged Howard to fight for position and rim run. He asked how a guy as good as Howard could be so easily out played by a scrub like Robin Lopez. Kenny and Chuck quickly rushed to Howard’s defense, but Shaq was having none of it.

This certainly isn’t the first time Shaq has called out Howard. It has become a pretty common spectacle during Howard’s games on TNT. But why has Shaq always been so hard on Dwight over the years? Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure Shaq started picking on Dwight, when he started calling himself Superman and winning dunk contests in a cape.

That’s right. I think this beef between two grown men comes directly out of this idea of who is really the man of steel. As a comic book nerd of sorts, this whole thing offends me. For one, there can’t be a less creative superhero comparison to an excellent athlete than Superman. Of all the metaphor fruits out there, it is the lowest hanging.

Second, it isn’t even a particularly good metaphor. Superman is an interesting character, when his story is defined by his status as an outsider. He is at his best when the narrative focuses on his attempts to assimilate to humanity but never actually becoming part of it. Despite all of this, he never stops protecting humanity and sacrificing himself for its benefit. Sure, he was big, strong, and fast. He was superhuman, but he was all about not being recognized as superhuman. When he took off the cape, he wanted to appear as human as possible. I’m not sure how that really fits the story of guys like Shaq and Dwight.

Why do I care about this? Why am I writing about two grown men fighting over who gets to wear the Superman cape? Because we have one of those rare players on our team who can make the rest of the NBA look like mortals. Anthony Davis is the next superhero of the NBA, and he deserves better than to just be the next Superman guy. He deserves something more creative. In that spirit, I am going to humbly submit a superhero comparison for Mr. Davis. I don’t really care if anyone ever uses it, so long as they never all him Superman.

Anthony Davis is Captain Marvel. Nothing? Let me try his other name. Anthony Davis is Shazam. Ring any bells for the non-comic book readers? Nope? Well, let me explain. Captain Marvel is not a household name anymore, but there was a point in time where he was the biggest name in comics. In fact, in the 1940’s, Captain Marvel sold more books than Superman. He was even the central character of the world’s first comic book film adaptation. That film actually ran into some legal trouble. What kind of legal trouble? Well, the kind where a competing studio that worked on a Superman movie calls and says, “You’re stealing our Superman idea”, which was probably true. Captain Marvel was a pretty thinly veiled attempt to create the next Superman character.

So what’s the point, right? Why replace the Superman nickname with his less well-known counterpart? Well, some things changed over the years that help my case. First of all, DC comics, the company that owns Superman, eventually brought Captain Marvel and really pushed the character in a lot of different directions, which allowed him to get away from the Superman comparison for a time.

All right, he isn’t Superman, but why is Anthony Davis Marvel? One of the interesting things about Captain Marvel is he is actually a teenage boy named Billy Batson. Batson turns in to Marvel by shouting the magic word “Shazam!”, an anagram that lists out his powers and abilities. It may be hard to remember now, but Anthony Davis came in to this league a boy. He wasn’t even 20 yet. He couldn’t even drink a beer and renting a car would still be an expensive pain for him. Despite his youth, you could tell there was something special about him. You could see the potential to be something great. He may have been a boy then, but the superhero was always there.

One of the main things that separated Marvel from Superman was the difference between fantasy and science fiction. You see, Superman is an alien from a foreign planet, who may look like a human but is far more powerful. That’s sci-fi. Marvel gets his powers from a wizard named Shazam. Now, I know the whole magic and fantasy element of comics isn’t in vogue right now. It’s all about “realistic“ and gritty storylines, not fun lighthearted spell casting.

Still, you can’t tell me that Anthony Davis hasn’t left you dumbfounded at least a few times. I mean remember those moments, where you said, “How did he do that?” You don’t really get that question with Superman. Sure, he can impress you, but do you really wonder how he did it? He’s an alien. Modern comic books have gone super deep into pop science to explain every super power he has. We know how he can fly, why he is so strong, or even how he shoots lasers from his eyes. There is nothing majestic, sacred, or unexplained about Superman. I can watch a mix tape of AD’s blocked shots and half of them will leave me wondering how he got there so fast, how did his arm reach that far, or how did he see that?

But what’s the best thing about Marvel? He’s stronger than Superman. In the fantastic graphic novel, Kingdom Come, Marvel and Superman battle it out. I don’t want to give too much away, but Marvel takes care of business (Also, it is set in the future, and Billy is a grown man at that point). See, one of Superman’s consistent weaknesses, besides Kryptonite, is magic, which Marvel obviously excels at. There is much more to the story than just this, and frankly, Kingdom Come is one of the most complex and dense graphic novels out there, so we could be here a while if we wanted to be.

Regardless, I feel I have made my point. Let guys like Cam Newton, Dwight Howard, and Shaquille O’Neal all tug on Superman’s cape. We’ll take the guy who will go down in history as the best out of all of them.


Bonus Content: Other Pelicans as Superheroes


1)   Eric Gordon – Spiderman

Spiderman is one of the most beloved characters in all of comics. People just relate to that teenage angst and overwhelming sense of responsibility. So why Spidey for Gordon? Well, Peter Parker was pretty small for a superhero, kind of like how Gordon is pretty small for an NBA guard. Also, think about how Gordon’s game is … limited by his skill set. Now, imagine Spiderman kicking a bad guy’s butt outside of metropolitan area. Get it? In the right situation they are both pretty great, but it is a pretty specific situation.

2)   Ryan Anderson – Hawkeye

This one is easy. Hawkeye is the greatest shooter in the universe, and he is a rising star in the comic world. Ryno is Hawkeye

3)   Anthony Morrow – ….. Green Arrow?

Crap. I forgot about Morrow, before I did the whole Hawkeye thing. Meh, just give him the Green Arrow. Close enough.

4)   Tyreke Evans – Wolverine

This one is actually kind of tough. There were a lot of directions to go with Evans, and he certainly doesn’t have Wolverine’s physique, who is usually around 5’ 4” in the comics (though, they are both bulky). Still, I’m pretty sure Wolverine would drive to the basket the same way Evans does, with plenty of power and just enough fitness to make it all look good. Also, remember how quickly Tyreke came back from some of those ankle injuries this season? Sounds like a Wolverine-esque healing factor to me. Finally, Wolvereke is an excellent nickname (Shout out to Jake Madison). I want that to happen. Can we make it happen? Please?


  1. otherMark

    April 29, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    This gives me a good entry point to post something about AD that I haven’t seen addressed in anyy of the recent pieces about how amazing he already is: his freethrow shooting.  It certainly makes him a more complete player already than Shag or Howard, and makes him an all-time rarity for a big man with his skillset.  I looked on, and plugged in his season numbers: 20 points, 10 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, TS% 58.  18 seasons by 8 players. If you rank those seasons by freethrow %, AD’s 2013-14 season is second (by 0.2%) to Bob McAdoo from 1973-74, when he finished 2nd in MVP voting.  If plug in 15+ ppg, 2.5+ blocks, 9+ rebounds, and >77% freethrow shooting, there have been ten seasons ever, and no player has ever done it twice.  AD, this season, comfortably exceeded all those values.

  2. Jared Ennis

    April 30, 2014 at 7:37 am

    Jrue Holiday- Mr. Fantastic. He is crafty and a wise leader of this young team. Like Reed Richards, he is deceptively long (which helps on D). Not sure if Mr. Fantastic would be able to guard all 3 perimeter positions as well as Holiday tho…

  3. Jimb0

    April 30, 2014 at 10:33 am

    When you said Anthony Davis is Shazam, I thought the rest of the article would be about AD being featured as a genie in a terrible kids movie and rapping Dr. Seuss.
    ….But then I realized that movie was called Kazaam.

  4. Jimb0

    April 30, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Also I pitch that Stiemsma is Aquaman on land.  Just kinda there

  5. RobertWelch

    April 30, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    This was a fun article, love the playfulness. So, is there a Batman on the team, maybe? Not sure, but maybe Austin Rivers could be Robin? No particular reason other than he is still a bit green but tries very hard. Just throwing that out there.

  6. Caffeinedisaster

    April 30, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    I know nothing of Captain Marvel.  That said,

    Why is Anthony Davis dressed like Mork from Mork & Mindy?

  7. RobertWelch

    April 30, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Caffeinedisaster  I guess the real question is why did Mork dress like Captain Marvel, who preceded Mork & Mindy by many decades.

  8. Pelican Poster

    April 30, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    RobertWelch Caffeinedisaster That is definitely Shazam…I remember him well from Saturday mornings!  I would like to hear that same “Shazam” shout over the PA after he does something (score, block, fly)…

  9. Pelican Poster

    April 30, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    I think Withey would have to be Reed Richards from Fantastic Four due to his sinewy length…though Aminu could also pull it off…like Rivers as Robin, but I don’t see a Batman…maybe Tyreke since he stays pretty stoic and must use some devices to reach the rim when everyone knows he’s going there anyway.  We do need to add a Hulk because Hulk Smash!

  10. RobertWelch

    April 30, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    Pelican Poster Yeah, “SHAZAM” over the PA whenever he dunks or blocks a shot would really get things rockin and rollin.

  11. BigBLDavis

    May 1, 2014 at 9:14 am

    Am I the only one who REALLY enjoyed this read….I hope not!

  12. Jake Madison

    May 1, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Stiesmsma would be Arm Fall Off Boy

  13. RobertWelch

    May 1, 2014 at 9:46 am

    BigBLDavis  When I first saw it, I really thought it would be some kind of stat comparison between Davis and Howard (or maybe Shaq?), a break down on their games and how Davis is the best big man in the league already, or some in depth analysis. But no, it was a silly but really fun read about comic book heros, the kind of topic that you used to discuss with you best friend in jr. high. Hey, things are slow for us Pelican fans right now, why not a little fantasy league of super hero activity for our team? I’m game.

  14. Caffeinedisaster

    May 2, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Eric Gordon is Iron Man………
    sorry, couldn’t finish that without laughing.

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