After watching some of the epic Nadal-Djokovic Australian Open Final last night, I came away with the following thoughts:
1) These guys are really good at tennis.
2) I’m getting tired just from watching.
3) Pete Sampras’ matches/rallies never went this long.
So I started to wonder, man, what would it have been like for either of these guys to play Sampras? These top players nowadays, along with Roger Federer, seem to be baseline geniuses. But if memory serves me well, Sampras points used to be finished in like 3-4 strokes, and the guy was dominant (grass and hard court only).
This got me thinking about other match-ups I’d like to see. Now, keep in mind that my childhood sports memories are safely in the 80s-90s, so these pairings will reflect these eras, most likely.
In other words, I’m not going to compare Shaq to George Mikan, because the still shots of Mikan I’ve seen don’t like that intimidating, quite frankly.
Moreover, these match-ups will likely be for sports that have more of a one-on-one edge to them, like tennis or basketball, and I’m talking about players in their primes.
Anyhow, here are the match-ups I’d love to see:
1) Pete Sampras against Roger Federer/Rafael Nadal/Novak Djokovic – I’m really not sure who would win because there are so few serve-and-volley players nowadays, and I’ve never really seen Fed, Nadal, or Djokovic play a maestro like Sampras who plays the s-n-v style. It’s quite stunning that the Fed-Nadal-Djokovic triumverate exists today – these guys are all incredibly talented and seemingly evenly matched, whereas Sampras was clearly a cut above all the players in his era.
But yeah, this would be great tennis because of the opposing styles and the tenacious play. It is interesting to note that in Sampras’ autobiography, he mentions how Michael Chang used to dominate him on the youth circuit. That changed circa 1990, I think.
2) Michael Jordan vs. Kobe Bryant – Yes, we saw some of this in the twilight of Jordan’s career, and I wish that MJ played just a little longer as Kobe was really coming on.
But can you imagine these two guys going at it in their prime? Just for their sheer competitiveness, this would have been fun to watch.
Before you judge me, I’m not saying that Kobe is in MJ’s class, because I think MJ was in a class of his own. The only thing Kobe might have better is his 3-ball and possibly his handle.
But would this have been an interesting match-up? Heck yeah.
3) Houston Rockets vs. Chicago Bulls, 1993-1995 – The only other dominant basketball player I remember from MJ’s era was Hakeem Olajuwon, and I’m specifically referring to Olajuown’s run in 1993-1995.
Do you remember Dream viciously dominating David Robinson, Ewing, and Shaq those years? Crazy.
I remember thinking, this guy can’t be stopped, and if they played the Bulls those years that MJ retired, I think they’d have a legitimate shot at beating them.
Let’s put it this way, I’d contend that the championship Rockets in those years were better than any of the other opponents the Bulls beat through their six championships (Sonics, Jazz, Lakers, Suns, Blazers).
I know, whenever I mention this to non-Houston people, they say, “who would have guarded MJ?!” to which I respond, “who would have guarded Otis Thorpe?”
But seriously, do you think Luc Longley could have guarded Dream?
Call me crazy, but I think Clutch City could have taken the Bulls, or at least given them their toughest series (for sure a 7 gamer, something the Bulls never had in their title years).
4) Michael Jordan vs. Lebron James – I know Lebron haters will talk about his lack of championships, but really, have we ever seen a player like him?
With Kobe, it’s easier to compare him to MJ because their size and positions are so similar.
But with Lebron, there are clearly attributes he possesses that are a tier above MJ (hence Pippen’s comments last year that Lebron might be a better all around player than MJ).
For instance, Lebron’s passing, rebounding, and size are a cut above MJ.
People might say, how would Lebron stop MJ?! Well, LBJ guarded everyone from Paul Pierce to Derrick Rose in last year’s playoffs (let’s forget about JJ Barea for now), and he did an effective job against those guys.
But how would MJ handle Lebron’s combination of speed and strength?
When LBJ starts winning championships I think he’s going to go down as one of the top two players in the game, especially if he wins “not six, not seven, not eight.”
I’m guessing he wins at least two.
Man, he should have come to the Knicks. That would have been unreal.
5) Joe Montana vs. Tom Brady – Brady’s lost a bit of his aura since he lost to the Giants (and I REALLY hope he loses again), but these guys are two of the most clutch qbs of all time.
Significant Sidenote: the Giants put a hurt on both of them at various points in their careers. End of Sidenote.
These guys are just winners, and the thing about sports is that someone has to lose, and I’m not sure who would lose if it were to come down to Montana vs. Brady.
I despised both of these guys growing up because they both haunted the Rams, and I hated the feeling of them having the ball at any point in the game. I’m not sure if this resonates with anyone – it’s not that I didn’t like that they had the ball at the end of the game – I hated that they would get the ball at all.
Why am I so obsessed with these things? I don’t know.
We can talk about supporting casts, but yeah, even if we switched their teammates, I’m not sure who I’d take to win a game if the two were pitted against each other.
I hope Aaron Rodgers reaches this level after a few more years. Discount double check!
6) Tim Tebow vs. Kurt Warner – Who would the Christian community root for? How about the media? The players?
What would happen in the heavenlies if these two played against each other?
My brain (and heart) are hurting just thinking about it.
I need to pray.
Which sporting match-ups would you like to see?