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Who's next?

Numbers reveal modern counterparts to past stars

Posted: Tuesday November 15, 2005 4:47PM; Updated: Wednesday November 16, 2005 10:34AM
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Michael Jordan
With six rings and five MVP awards, it's unlikely any player will match his accomplishments in the forseeable future.
Jonathan Daniel /Allsport

By Justin Kubatko, Basketball-Reference.com, Special to SI.com

Who's the next Michael Jordan? Seemingly asked with each new star that bursts upon the NBA scene, the answer seemingly changes each season. While the league has yet to produce anyone who fits the bill aesthetically, statistics offer a hint by way of similarity scores, which measure how closely one player resembles another. Factors such as a player's size (height and weight), shooting percentage, assist ratio (assists per 100 possessions), rebound rate (percentage of missed shots a player rebounded while he was on the floor), turnover ratio (turnovers per 100 possessions) and usage rate (possessions per 40 minutes) are taken into account when calculating similarity scores. The scores range from 0 to 1000, with 1000 being a perfect score. (For more details on the similarity scores method, please read this article.)

So who measures up? To Jordan? Not many. But, based on their statistics from last season, plenty of today's superstars remind of some of the more famous -- and infamous -- players of the past 25 years.

In the table below, 82games.com's Roland Beech and I have tabulated how closely some of today's players compare to their predecessors. Please note that even though two players may be statistically similar, it does not mean that they were the same type of player. It simply means they produced similar results.

Looking for the next MJ
Who matches up to yesterday's stars?
Player Current counterparts Similarity Score
Larry Bird LeBron James 885
Dirk Nowitzki 856
John Stockton Steve Nash 881
Jason Terry 880
Karl Malone Elton Brand 890
Zach Randolph 884
Isiah Thomas Mike Bibby 897
Gilbert Arenas 884
Bernard King Carmelo Anthony 901
Corey Maggette 882
Dennis Rodman Andre Iguodala 810
Reggie Evans 798
Clyde Drexler Vince Carter 909
Paul Pierce 904
Tom Tolbert Eduardo Najera 864
Brian Scalabrine 844
Scottie Pippen Lamar Odom 855
Antoine Walker 853
Kiki Vandeweghe Wally Szczerbiak 879
Michael Redd 866
Hakeem Olajuwon Shaquille O'Neal 932
Amare Stoudemire 877
Michael Jordan Tracy McGrady 918
Vince Carter 908

Let's take a look at some of results in depth.

Larry Bird-LeBron James

Other than being close in height, Bird and LeBron James do not physically resemble each other. However, they do have similar skill sets. Over the course of his career, Bird averaged 25.3 points per 40 minutes with an assist ratio of 20.5, while last season James averaged 25.7 points per 40 minutes with an assist ratio of 20.6. Bird's career usage rate was 28.1, compared to James' usage rate of 28.8. Of course, there are some differences between the two players, most notably in their rebounding. Bird was the superior rebounder, with a career rebound rate of 14.5 percent (James' rebound rate was 10.2 percent in 2004-05). Still, it says quite a bit about James that as a 20-year old he had a season that was similar to a typical season from Larry Bird.