Basketball can take on many forms: Professional play, at the playground, five-on-five, two-on-two, and even one-on-one. But one thing basketball players cannot do is play themselves. The McGill Tribune sportswriters wondered, if it were possible, which NBA players would be the most fun to watch challenge themselves in a one-on-one matchup.
Watching Larry Bird play himself would be riveting, not only for his all-around dominance on the offensive end of the floor, but also because of his unrivaled trash-talk. ‘Larry Legend’ once told Seattle Supersonics forward Xavier McDaniel exactly how and where he would shoot over him and followed it up by hitting the game-winning shot. Larry Bird versus Larry Bird would be a supreme battle with incredible shots, fierce defence, and brash trash talk. In a physical matchup, fans might get to watch one of the most entertaining games in basketball history.
Kobe Bryant is one of the most renowned two-way players of of all time. Touting that he has never lost a game of one-on-one, Bryant would finally meet his match when facing himself. His trademark ‘mamba mentality’ would give way to the most competitive game of one-on-one ever, packed with contested fadeaways, ankle-breaking crossovers, and maybe even some morale-destroying dunks. Considering Bryant’s tenacity on the defensive end, he might not ever get a shot off on himself. NBA fans everywhere would be keen to find out.
In today’s NBA, there is one player that should be on fans’ minds for a one vs. one: 2013-2014 MVP Kevin Durant. Listed at six-foot-nine with a seven-foot-four wingspan, Durant is a force of nature. The small forward possesses the speed and ball-handling of a guard, one of the league’s best jumpers, and incredible footwork, all while being an elite defender and shot blocker. Basketball fans have seen hints of Durant’s one-on-one prowess before: In 2018, Durant beat the rest of the world’s best ballers during Team USA training camp. No other player has the physical tools necessary to stop Durant, so it would be interesting to see the star meet his match in himself.
Russell Westbrook, the 2016-17 league MVP, is known in the NBA for his relentless playing style and is widely regarded as one of the top point guards in the league. With an explosive first step, Westbrook blows by his defenders, and, as an aggressive offensive player, he would not hesitate to use such power against himself to get to the rim off the dribble. His aggressiveness on offence could be his downfall, however, as, when matched with a good defender, such as himself, he can commit offensive fouls. Considering his poor shooting abilities, the defensive Westbrook would be able to back off while defending and prevent drives to the basket. However, he tends to gamble on defence, going for steals which could lead to his opponent speeding right by him for an easy bucket.
Some may not remember ‘The Grindfather,’ better known as Memphis Grizzlies legend Tony Allen. There are few who could match his grit on the defensive end; his ability to bully opposing players is so renowned that Kobe Bryant considers Allen the best defender he has ever faced. However, it is Allen’s offence, that makes this matchup so entertaining. With a solid, but not standout, average of 8.1 points per game for his career coupled with an atrocious 28 per cent three-point shooting, this defensive slugfest is not for the faint of heart. It would be a grind—and that is just the way that Allen likes it.