Now, comparisons are made all of the time, to the point that they lose their significance. That being said, I would like to make one concerning basketball and football. Not the games themselves, they are fundamentally different in almost all conceivable ways except both involve a ball and points. I am referring to two players specifically who seem to have much in common, at least in the parameters of their individual sport. Those two players are Steve Nash and Drew Brees.
Both of these men are the true and respected leaders of their teams. They each lead their squads through thick and thin with tremendous determination and effort, never letting the situation get the best of them.
Now, the actual play of each is where the comparison holds weight. Both Nash and Brees lead high-powered offenses that have been criticized for not advancing far enough into the playoffs. The structure of the playoffs for the NFL and the NBA are different, football is one and done while basketball is a lengthy series where momentum can shift by something as simple as a hip-check.
Regardless, the gripes about each remain the same while the praise does as well. Before Nash came to Phoenix, the Suns were a team mired in adequateness, struggling to garner any significant success beyond brief glimpses of brilliance. Nash was signed from Dallas and immediately took the Suns into hyper-drive, leading Phoenix to the best season in its history. The Suns would make it all the way to the Western Conference Championship, but were turned away by the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs.
Similarly, Brees came over to the Saints just after Hurricane Katrina and not only rejuvenated the franchise but in part the city of New Orleans. He led the Saints to a 10-6 record and all the way to the NFC Championship game, where they would lose to the Chicago Bears.
The circumstances for both players leaving their previous teams are also eerily similar. Nash had played on the Dallas Mavericks previously, helping to lead them to some outstanding records alongside best friend Dirk Nowitzki. When Nash’s contract was up, owner Mark Cuban didn’t want to lock up millions in salary to Nash when he wanted to sign the younger Nowitzki. Shunned by the team he cared deeply about, Nash signed with Phoenix to join with offensive revolutionary (maybe not) Mike D’Antoni.
Similarly, Brees was drafted and played for the San Diego Chargers alongside LaDainian Tomlinson. His first three years were nothing spectacular, beating out then subsequently being beat out by Doug Flutie for the quarterback position on separate occasions. Dissatisfied with the play of Brees, the Chargers drafted QB Philip Rivers. Something must have clicked for Brees, as he shifted from a possible bust to being on the verge of superstardom. The next two years, Rivers would ride the bench as Brees put on a passing clinic for the Chargers. When Brees’ contract expired, the Chargers could either retain him and get rid of Rivers, or let Brees loose and gamble their future on the unproven Rivers. The Chargers picked Rivers (which ended up working out in some respects) and Brees was left to go to the Saints and team with offensive visionary Sean Payton.
Joining their new teams, Nash and Brees have become offensive juggernauts that are capable of obliterating even the most competent of opposing defenses. Nash has been named the MVP of the league twice in his short stay with Phoenix. Brees, while not named the MVP, has notched over 5,000 passing yards in one season (the second most by any quarterback in NFL history).
Their introduction into the league was also similar in some aspects. Nash was drafted in the first round by the Phoenix Suns but was stuck behind Kevin Johnson (the mayor of Sacramento) and Jason Kidd. Under utilized, Nash struggled to get on the court and make any impact on the game at all. It wasn’t until he went to the Dallas Mavericks that he “took off”. As stated above, Nash blossomed into a superstar when he returned to Phoenix and the rest is history.
Brees was drafted with the first pick of the second round by San Diego. While a high pick by NFL standards, he struggled in his early years. He played in only one game during his rookie season, passing for 221 yards. His second year would have Brees seeing the field far more often (he started all 16 games), but only notched a 76.9 passer rating (whatever that means). His third season was even worse as he had a terrible 67.5 passer rating while starting only 11 games.
Their styles of play resemble one another. Nash and Brees push the ball with a ferocity that is rarely matched by their peers. They distribute the ball to everyone on the court, sending the message to teammates to always be watching because a rocket in the form of a ball could be heading their way at any given moment.
They are renown for their accuracy and flair for passing. The flair part is easier for Nash because he plays basketball where creativity is more obvious, but Brees can make unbelievable passes in impossible situations.
On a more superficial level, both have similar physical features. I am of course referring to their shimmering brunette locks. Long and lustrous, the hair is routinely slicked back during game play, intimidating opponents like a lion’s mane during territorial defenses.
Maybe it is just me and that I’m seeing things that aren’t there, but Steve Nash and Drew Brees represent the same thing for two different leagues. They play their sports with the same intensity and the same approach (fast, reckless, but under control), lead deadly offenses, have led teams from despair to glory in one season, and both rock long locks. The similarities between the two can make anyone do a double take, yet they are completely unique, not only two each other, but to the rest of their competition.