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

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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?

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