It’s been, say, four years since my last intra-sport comparison. At Run of Play in 2010, I looked at college basketball to talk about Barca’s possession game, the half court offense, and Chinese water torture. A year earlier, I reflected upon the Chicago Fire career of one Cuautehmoc Blanco and another comparison stuck: Steve Nash at Phoenix.
Both were a bit aged. Neither played much defense. Yet both were indisputably the catalyst for their team’s respective offense. Recently, another NBA/Soccer comparison dawned on me: Steve Kerr of the Chicago Bulls during the 1990′s and Pedro of Barcelona and Furia Roja fame.
First, a brief NBA history lesson. Michael Jordan was (and probably still is) the greatest basketball player of all time. He won six championships with the NBA. Of course, basketball is a team sport. He was surrounded by talent. One of his key sidekicks was Scottie Pippen, himself a pretty damn good point guard. Another good player was sharpshooter Steve Kerr. Check out his highlights:
Notice any patterns? Well, no offense to Steve, but he wasn’t particularly fast or athletic. Could you imagine him driving to the hole after a quicksilver-fast crossover? Me neither. Instead, he stroked a lovely three-point shot and stood around the three-point line. Most of the time, Jordan drives to the lane, draws in a double or triple-team, and then kicks the ball out to Kerr for a wide-open three.
And this raises the question: is greatness by association still greatness? Kerr deserves credit for his shooting ability and positioning, but, on a larger picture level, he was in the right place at the right time (Chicago, 1990′s). How good was he?
Now the comparison: Pedro Rodriguez of FC Barcelona and the Spanish national team. As a primer, Pedro has won the World Cup, a European Championship, and the Champions League. Basically, if there’s a soccer trophy to win, it has his name engraved upon it. Here’s a highlight reel of Pedro’s goals.
Again, notice a pattern? First off, Pedro’s finishing is sublime. With either foot, he can stroke the ball to the far post. His positioning is good – he stays wide while plays develop. His timing is also quite good – those runs that split the high defensive line are marvelous. Still, like Kerr, you can’t help but feel he benefits from being around great players. Could you stand beside Leo Messi and sidefoot in goals from 10 yards out? Could Xavi and Andres Iniesta’s perfectly timed passes improve your movement off the ball?
Ultimately, Pedro and Steve Kerr share sporting talents composed of what Awful Announcing has called more or less the “white guys skillset.” They have a high “sporting IQ” and a “knack for being in the right place at the right time.” There’s nothing wrong with that, it just blows my mind that two players from different sports, countries, and eras can play such similar roles.