We are one week out from the 2015 NBA Draft (as I type this) and speculation is running wild like Hulkamania in the 80's. Moreover, the NBA hot stove is burning hotter than the ring posts after a Kane pinfall. Meanwhile experts are wavering back and forth on pre-draft workouts, scouting reports, and mock drafts like a crowd watches a John Cena match. Some think a certain player is awesome while others think he sucks. And YouTube highlight reels are being watched and re-watched (mostly by Spike Eskin) at a pace more furious than a Ricky Steamboat hot tag.
What I'm trying to say is that the lead up to the NBA Draft is not all that dis-similar from the lead up to a major WWE pay-per-view event. As fervently as "smart marks" will fantasy book a Wrestlemania, so too will basketball fans base all their hopes and hoop dreams on some jabroni journalist's mock draft predictions. It's all about building mystique and intrigue and few do it better than the NBA and the WWE. So with that said, here now is my "NBA Draft Top Ten Big Board of Professional Wrestler Comparisons."
10. Devin Booker - X-Pac
While the obvious comparison would be to the five time, five time, five time, five time, five time WCW World Heavyweight Champion Booker T... in the NBA draft, nothing is ever as obvious as it appears. That's why I'm going with X-Pac. Devin Booker was essentially the X-Pac of the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats. He was the forgotten man behind the bigs.
While Towns and Cauley-Stein got all the attention, Booker was the glue. Loose ball? Booker's on the floor fighting for it. Need a three? Booker's waiting in the corner ready to knock it down. Big men calling for the ball, count on Booker to get it to them. Same goes for X-Pac. He was the forgotten man in not one, but two of the greatest wrestling factions of all time in the NWO and DX and like Booker, he played his role to perfection while standing in the shadow of heavyweights like Nash & Hall and HHH & HBK. And if you're not down with that, I got two words for you! SUCK IT!
9. Stanley Johnson - Randy Orton
The most common thing you hear about the Arizona forward is how he has the body of 25 year-old even though he's yet to celebrate his 20th birthday. Seriously, how many 19 year olds are 6'6", 240? What that says to me is that his genetics are more gifted than members of Oprah's studio audience.
Sound familiar? Has anyone in the history of professional wrestling ever hit the genetic jackpot more than "The Viper" Randy Orton? He's a third generation superstar who became the youngest world heavyweight champion at age 24 and at the time, looked like he'd been hitting RKO's out of nowhere for a decade. And the "voices in my head" are telling me that in much the same way that Randy got by on just his superior genetics and natural instincts early in his career and is just NOW starting to put it all together, Johnson won't even start to play his best basketball for another 6-8 years.
8. Willie Cauley-Stein - Big Boss Man
I wracked my brain trying to think of a wrester with a hyphenated last name but the only one I could come up with was Hunter Hearst-Helmsley. But the comparison wasn't quite right so then I tweaked my criteria to wrestlers with 3-words in their name and I landed on a near-perfect comparison for the center from Kentucky.
Look no further than the night stick wielding, corrections officer from Cobb County, Georgia, The Big Boss Man! Both were the enforcers on tandems dubbed "The Twin Towers" (Boss Man with Akeem "The African Dream" and Cauley-Stein with Karl-Anthony Towns), both instilled "law, order, and justice" upon anyone who got in their way, and talk about extending the long arm of the law, how about Cauley-Stein's 7'2" wingspan? Whether you drove at Cauley-Stein in the paint or came off the ropes towards the Boss Man, chances are you ended up servin' "Hard Time" at the hands of either big man.
7. Mario Hezonja - Neville
When your Euro-league highlight reels become the stuff of legend... and occupy more hours of Spike Eskin's day than talking thru Glen Macnow's Top 30 Chili Dogs in Burlington County List... undoubtedly you've become the YouTube sensation of this year's draft. That's why it's easy to make this comparison. YouTube sensation Mario Hezonja meet the "New Sensation", Adrian Neville. Both are foreign wunderkinds who've burst on the scene with jaw dropping athleticism and both are world class finishers. Hezonja at the rim with Eastern Block Funk Dunks and Neville off the top rope with the Red Arrow splash. Google it. It makes Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka's top rope splash look like Chris Christie falling off his chair on the WIP Morning Show.
6. Justise Winslow - Kevin Owens
Again the easy comparison to make here would be to liken Justise Winslow to Sid Justice (Nee: Vicious) but the Liberty Ballers readers deserve a more thoughtful analysis. I'll dive deeper and take you back to the NCAA tournament coming-out party hosted by the Duke freshman. By averaging 18.5 points and seven rebounds per game on 48 percent shooting in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight against Utah and Gonzaga he made the basketball world take notice... and in so doing he made himself a ton of draft lottery millions.
It's hardly any different than the way Kevin Owens (Nee: Steen) pummeled, power-bombed and pinned John Cena in his first ever match on the WWE main roster. Seriously I haven't seen a bigger coming out party than what we saw from Winslow in the tournament and Owens at Elimination Chamber since Michael Sam's house on day three of the 2014 NFL Draft.
5. Kristaps Porzingis - Dean Ambrose
There's always one in every draft. The Wild Card. The guy who could just as easily drop out of the lottery as he could go number one overall. Even easier would've been me making an Edge and Kristaps joke here but that would be deserving of a double chair shot "Con-Chair-To" to the head, so simply put, that guy this year is Kristaps Porzingis.
He has all the makings of a wild card. He's the Latvian seven foot mystery man-child who is getting all kinds of "skinny Dirk" comparisons based off of a few YouTube highlights and a stateside workout that's getting more hype than Chip Kelly's sports science program. In other words, he's the definition of a wild card. And you know where wild cards exist? On THE LUNATIC FRINGE! Just like the second coming of the late 90's "Loose Cannon" version of Brian Pillman, Dean Ambrose. Oh ya, and both guys are white. So there's that too.
4. Emmanuel Mudiay - Kofi Kingston
Ok so, Emmanuel Mudiay is from the Congo but skipped college in Texas to play professionally in China. Meanwhile Kofi Kingston is from Ghana but was originally billed from Kingston, Jamaica but now resides in Tampa. Also both are ELITE athletes who can do things or their respective playing fields that pretty much no one else in their class can do. Good enough for me.
3. D'Angelo Russell - D'Lo Brown
The first no-brainer of the list. By law and strict Michael Levin mandate, I'm required to compare D'Angelo Russell to D'Lo Brown in this space. But it goes much deeper than their D-apostrophe'd first names and their shared D'Lo nicknames. More mirror-like between these to are their shared swag levels. Between D'Lo's epic in-ring trash talk and his strut to the ring complete with signature head shake, his swag level was already bordering on Kanye proportions.
But throw in the wrestling equivalent of the NBA swag litmus test - showing up to the arena rocking a child's Hello Kitty backpack - compared to wearing a chest protector in the ring, D'Lo is the Nick Young of wrestling swag. So it's safe to compare him to the one guy in the entire draft class who is so swaggy, he wears number zero on his jersey just to remind everyone that nobody can guard him. You Better Recognize!
2. Jahlil Okafor - Ryback
If Jahlil Okafor is anything, he's a throwback to a bygone era where power forwards were just that. Powerful. Guys like Charles Barkley and Anthony Mason... Fat-bottomed dudes the size of Silverbacks who just set up shop in the paint and ate. When they were on the court it was feeding time. Guards just fed them more and more and more until they were either bored or out of low post moves. See where I'm going with this? To compare the Ryback to a brick shit house would be an insult to shit houses made of brick. And just like Chuck and Mase in the low post (or at an Old Country Buffet) he lives by one, simple, easily chanted credo: "Feed Me More, Feed Me More!"
1. Karl-Anthony Towns - Bam Bam Bigelow
Let's see, Jersey-born big man who is destined to wallow in obscurity playing in Minnesota whose probably more talented than the majority of anyone else his size but will most likely only see rare glimpses of the big time? Sounds like Bam Bam Bigelow to me (flaming scull tattoos notwithstanding). Universally regarded as one of the most athletically gifted big man in the wrestling history, the native son of Asbury Park, NJ only saw real success once in his career when he somehow main evented Wrestlemania X1 against NFL legend, Lawrence Taylor. (Yes, this actually happened) Sadly just like Bam Bam's talents were mostly wasted in VFW halls and high school gymnasiums going thru flaming tables, so too will KAT's early career until he's able to escape the Twin Cities for a contender.
Follow Ange on Twitter at @AngeGold.