Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It's already happened

About 10 days ago, upon seeing Ricky Rubio in a game situation for the first time, I wrote, "Ricky Rubio looks kind of like Pete Maravich." I didn't mean it as a comparison of their games, I was just pointing out that they looked alike. Well, earlier this week the San Francisco Chronicle caught on to the same similarity, and used it as a jumping off point to compare the two as players. First noting the physical similarities:

Maybe Rubio is the reincarnation of Pistol Pete. Same long (Maravich was 6-foot-5, Rubio 6-4), skinny, loose-jointed frame; same slouchy, lazy-shuffle walk; same dark, mop-top hair, same prominent nose.

Most jarring of all - same eyes. Maravich had large, dark eyes, turned down at the corners. The eyes were sad, but penetrating and wary. Pistol had the eyes of a gunslinger walking into a saloon, expecting trouble.

The story goes on to examine the respective games, concluding:

First impression, La Pistola is no Pistol. Rubio doesn't have Maravich's scoring ability or range, almost certainly never will. Maravich could get off a shot against anyone, any time.

Rubio plays more defense than Maravich did, though it's a scrambling, gambling defense.


Love of the dramatic pass. To Maravich, the crazy, showy pass had a purpose - light up the crowd, fire up his teammates. Rubio, who is shielded from interviews, is quoted as saying, "If I can do some magic (with a pass), I do it."

It seems kind of arbitrary to base a basketball analysis on the physical similarities between two players and their coincidental sharing of a nickname (Rubio is known in Spain as La Pistola). But the comparison seems pretty common, and Rubio's penchant for awe-inspiring passes and his skilled ballhandling don't do much to stop it. What gets me, though, is that it sometimes feels like writers are missing something right under their noses when they try to find similarities between Maravich and Rubio. Here are some phrases used to describe Maravich in the article:

  • "an unrepentant showman in an era when hotdogging was considered a sin"
  • "a selfish gunner, but nobody before or since passed the basketball with such dazzling creativity"
  • "could get off a shot against anyone, any time"
  • "large, dark eyes"
  • In a comment response to the story by reader "eddieflorida": "Maravich was the quintessential playground rat who did well in the pros. Most of that type player can't translate their game to the NBA, but by dint of his sheer talent he did. He was a ball hog, gunner, passer, shooter from anywhere."
Don't those words sound like they describe someone who's already in the league?

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