Latest News, NBA / Jun 10, 2010 / 1:43 pm

The Beautiful Games: Dime’s NBA vs. World Cup Player Comparisons

With the World Cup opener less than 24 hours away, soccer fans across the globe are setting their DVR’s and scouting out bars open at ungodly hours just for a chance to watch the world’s very best stars. To keep you informed and prepared for the month-long tournament, here’s a list of players to watch out for and their playing style counterparts from the NBA:

England's Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney is Dwyane Wade
Known for his scoring prowess, forward Wayne Rooney is undoubtedly the key to England’s run at its first World Cup trophy in over 40 years. Much like D-Wade, Rooney is a physical scorer, who finished second in Premiership goals with 26 tallies for club team Manchester United.

Cristiano Ronaldo is Derrick Rose
Portugal, entering the World Cup in the Group of Death (Brazil, Cote D’Ivoire, North Korea), has never had a better stretch than a 1966 third-place finish. With perhaps the toughest road to the Cup, they will rely heavily on the play of midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo, known for his blazing speed and lethal crossovers at Spanish club side Real Madrid.

Argentina's Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi is Kevin Durant
Fresh off a 2009 campaign that earned him FIFA World Player of the Year honors, Argentinian midfielder Lionel Messi is the man to watch in South Africa. Argentina’s playmaker, known more for his technical ability than his physicality, can dribble past seemingly any defender and has a penchant for highlight-reel scoring. He led La Liga in goals with 34 with Barcelona.

Brazil's Kaka

Kaká is Steve Nash
If Brazil wants to regain the form that earned the country its fifth World Cup trophy in 2002, it will require a Herculean effort from midfielder Kaká. Though surrounded by talent, Kaká’s play is understated in its brilliance. He is a game-changing midfielder with scoring ability, and constantly seems one step ahead of his competition.

Spain's David Villa

David Villa is Carmelo Anthony
The Spanish forward, who recently made the move to Barcelona on a €40 million transfer fee, is counted on for one thing and one thing alone: scoring. Former club Valencia finished third in La Liga thanks in large part to Villa’s contributions (21 league goals), and he has quickly become one of the most prolific scorers in the world.

Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o

Samuel Eto’o is Kobe Bryant
Put simply, Samuel Eto’o is a winner. The Cameroonian forward helped lead his Barcelona club to a Champions League trophy in 2009 with six goals in 12 CL appearances. His move to current Italian club Inter Milan wouldn’t keep him from earning more hardware — Inter enjoyed another Serie A championship after his arrival, and they won their second ever Champions League trophy at the end of the 2010 season.

England's Frank Lampard

Frank Lampard is Chris Paul
One of the most brilliant playmakers in the game today, British midfielder Frank Lampard has potentially the highest soccer IQ in the tournament. Lampard led Chelsea in assists (14) and added 22 goals of his own in helping Chelsea to a first-place finish in the Premiership. Even more so than his final numbers will indicate, Lampard’s play will be instrumental in the British attack.

Brazil's Maicon

Maicon is Dwight Howard
Finding a defender with offensive capabilities is not always easy, but Brazil has a perfect fit for its playing style in right back Maicon. The Inter Milan star, quickly rising in prominence as one of the best defenders in the game, also plays a key role in the offense with overlapping runs down the flank. Combined with his shutdown defense at right back, Maicon may very well establish himself as the best defender in the world by tourney’s end.

Spain's Cesc Fabregas

Cesc Fabregas is Rajon Rondo
Much like Rondo’s move from the University of Kentucky to the Boston Celtics, when Fabregas was signed away from Barcelona by Arsenal as a 16-year-old, he had made a transition from one historic club to another. The play of Fabregas in the midfield will be crucial to Spain’s chances of success. Known for his passing and distribution abilities, Fabregas brings a creativity and vision to the midfield that is unheralded for a 23-year-old.

Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba

Didier Drogba is LeBron James
You didn’t really think we would skip out on a LeBron James comparison, did you? Despite Drogba’s recent injury that has him in doubt for Cote D’Ivoire, the forward has established himself as the very best in the game in his six years with Chelsea. And though his club team has yet to find an elusive Champions League trophy (sound familiar?), Drogba led the Premiership with 29 goals in 2009/2010.

-Follow Camron on Twitter at @the_killa_cam.
-Follow Dime on Twitter at @DIMEMag.
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  • Lee

    WOW, You guys know nothing about football.

  • datdood


    big guy. it is a basketball magazine…

  • Joe Cooley High

    @Lee — If you’re gonna put down that kind of criticism, you have to come up with a list of your own that makes more sense. Good work Camron.

  • http://dimemag.com/ Camron Ghorbi


    Who would you have chosen for each comparison? I’d like to consider myself a soccer fan, and I don’t know how off you think this list is to draw that kind of response. Do you think any playing style comparison is that off?

  • Steve

    I like the list, but Frank Lampard doesn’t lead the “British” attack?! England, Wales and Scotland are all separate teams!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • M Intellect

    Stop getting at Lee just because he unfortunately is right. Dudes rip Dime over a whole load of shit articles so why get bitchy about this.

    Anytime you hear offence, crossover and lockdown defence in relation to football, there’s been a major problem.

    But A for effort, Cam…

  • http://dimemag.com/ Camron Ghorbi

    @ M Intellect

    I appreciate the response. While a crossover by Ronaldo is mighty different from a Derrick Rose crossover, the concept remains the same – Ronaldo has the best footwork in the world, and one of the fastest with the ball at his feet. Fabregas is one of the guys who controls the offense from midfield for the Spaniards, just like Kaka with the Brazilians (hence the Rondo and Nash comparisons).

    I understand the differences between “basketball defense” and “soccer defense,” or “soccer offense” and “basketball offense,” but for the purposes of the article, how off base are the comparisons that are made? Is David Villa not one of the best scorers in the world? Is Maicon not one of the best defenders in the world, who makes contributions on offense as well? I’m perplexed.

  • isotope

    Yeah even die-hard Chelsea fans wouldn’t argue Drogba as the best in the world right now. Nor will IM or Barcelon fans say of Samuel Eto’o. Rooney is a better comparison as people either think he’s the best or overrated and arrogant.

  • Lee

    Wayne Roonie – Ultimate team mate, everyone wants to play with this guy, Firey temper – (Young) Kevin Garnett

    Ronaldo – Has a million moves, polarizes oppinions of him – Kobe Bryant

    Messi – Small with amazing ball control – Chris Paul

    Fabregas – Talented player but will come off the bench – Ginobli

    You get the idea

  • isotope

    Barcelona got rid of Eto’o to get a better player in Ibrahimovic. Can you imagine the Lakers doing that to Kobe? Trading him for a better player?

  • Sweet English

    Ha! This article was hilarious. Great idea and it’s something I often discuss with… Myself. Maybe though, fellas, you could have asked someone; 1. From a country that gives a flying fuck about FOOTBALL and 2. Who has watched a single match in the last few years? Wikipedia isn’t always the best source of information you know…

  • silky

    wow those are terrible comparisons…. esp lampard and cp3. lampard is equivalent to a wing finisher. but only when his teammates set him up. lemme say RJ

    ronaldo is kobe. hated/loved and talented

    fabregas doesnt even start, so no rondo. more like sneider

    i like rooney and wade.

    carmello is more et’o

    ray-ray is gerrard

    there is no lebron

  • http://dimemag.com/ Camron Ghorbi

    @Lee & isotope

    Thank you both for commenting here, I appreciate you reading it and contributing your opinions.


    If you read in the title, this comparison has a lot more to do with playing styles than it does their role or personalities (Eto’o comparison not withstanding using the “winner” term) – so while Ronaldo has fans and critics with polarizing opinions, or while Fabregas may come off the bench, or everyone wants to play with Rooney, none of those ideas have much to do with their styles of play.

  • Dan

    If i wasnt a football fan and I decided to watch football this yr to see these guys, I’d be disappointed, because I think atleast two of these guys are hurt and not playing…..especially Lebron there.


    Great article. Got me wet for the world cup. FUEZA ARGENTINA!!!!

  • isotope

    Bib Papi, y’all ready to get upset on Saturday?

  • Claw

    Does Pele still play? That’s all I know.

  • http://www.myspace.com/carlifrancis5 quest???


  • nastynas

    this is a team comparison: http://www.slamonline.com/online/nba/2010/05/world-cup/

    it’s much more easy to compare teams than it is to actually compare players in different sports, not a bad try dime.
    messi=’01 iverson. Has to make up for lack of strenght,length by using speed and ballhandling.
    Great scorers, underrated passers.

  • padoods

    for me one comparison that should have been made was steve nash = xavi. both are sublime passers and just makes their teammates better.


    awww ease up guys… the man is just trying to make simplistic comparisons for fans of one sport so they can try understand a different one a lil better.
    May have been imperfect, but really, i think its more intended to help out people who don’t know nuttin bout soccer/football.

  • Wazza!

    Messi = AI, the Durant comparison is way off
    Lampard is more Billiups & Kaka would CP3. Not a bad effort though, bang on with most of the other matchups

  • Johnny

    I´m a biiiiig fan of football and I liked this! you can argue about some, just like the basketball artikles, but most of it is spot on! keep it up dimemag.

  • Nick Taubes

    First of all, this was very well done, I just love the World Cup and the NBA more than anything (other than the NFL, of course) so I couldn’t help myself. I love you Cam.

    Here’s my opinion

    Maicon – Dwight Howard

    Wayne Rooney – Carmelo Anthony – always a threat to score, gonna score a lot. Strong, dependable if not injured.

    Cristiano Ronaldo – Kobe Bryant – known for his shot, won a championship with Man U, beast.

    Messi – Dwyane Wade- skill, heart, arguably the most dominant player in his sport. Messi could go down as Kobe, Lebron, Wade. He’s a dirty girl.

    Kaka – Steve Nash – not 100% on this one, but they both do score and dish it out as good as anyone. Nash could be someone like Franck Ribery, though (both ugly, both BEASTS)

    Villa- Melo works, but I would say he’s the Durant here. Scoring machine that will thrive now that he’s got a chance on a good team.

    Eto’o- could use Wade here, but I’m gonna go with Paul Pierce. Scores in many different ways, can shoot, do a lot of things… may not always be pretty but he’ll always score and sometimes it’ll be brilliant

    Lampard- Chris Paul definitely works here, Nash would work, Deron Williams, J-Kidd, any of these guys

    Cesc Fabregas – Bench player for Spain, Iniesta is the man at this spot and would qualify as Rondo for sure.

    Didier Drogba IS Lebron James … very true.

    As for Derrick Rose, I would say that he’s much like a Cesc Fabregas. Young, and dominant in many situations. Still needs to write his part of history.

    I’d also say players like Fabiano (BRA) and Robben (NED) would qualify as Durant or Melo. Both are extremely significant players in this tournament. And maybe Goalkeeper Julio Cesar could be Dwight Howard for a day.

  • M Intellect

    Cam – I’m not slighting what you do, I know it seems that way from how the comments fell above but your comment hadn’t loaded by the time I clicked on the article, but as football fan from London, sometimes if the wrong lingo is used in football, it fucks things up a bit. Trust me as a baller from the UK, I get pissed the other way round when people call the basket a goal or the court a pitch.

    To address your points, you’re rationale for the Ronaldo/Rose comparison makes sense, but Ronaldo is probably the most well-rounded footballer in history so I think he’s probably a 2004 Kobe. Exposive, Technical and Hated.

    Historically Fabregas isn’t the pulse of the Spanish midfield like he is at Arsenal, Xavi or Iniesta. So one of them would be better.

    Maicon even though his position is defensive, is more of an attacker with adept defensive skills, which were probably highlighted more playing for Mourinho at Inter, who was famous for playing defensive football.

    David Villa and Carmelo is on-point and the Messi-’01 AI suggested above is a perfect example.

  • lol

    wowwwwwww these guys know NOTHING about soccer. like this is retarded dumb thing to put up

  • Marparker

    soccer snobs….my favorite people

    Rooney and Dwade was my first thought
    physical play, can get anywhere they want going through or around defenders

    Ronaldo and Kobe was my second
    Supremely talented shot makers, who sometimes take those shots just cuz they can

    No other players draw immediate comparison to me
    when I watch drogba I reminded of Adrian Peterson more than any nba player

    Everyone is always talking Landon Donovan on the U.S side. Whenever Altidor is in the game my eyes immediately go to him. I don’t know who to compare him to though.

  • Mau

    Messi is the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • lfc

    not a bad article but i would say steven gerrard would be lebron he can pass he can score and he can defend all round star player who leads a team of average players (liverpool that is) to moderate success.

  • Hassan

    Your comparisons are absurd. You should stick to basketball. You just manage to show how clueless you are with soccer. I mean what are the basis to compare messi to durant? Cos they both are young?

  • http://dimemag.com/ Camron Ghorbi

    @ Everyone

    Thanks for all the responses, keep them coming, we want to see your lists and why you disagree with this one.


    Both Messi and Durant rely on their versatility and effortless dribbling skills over physicality. Both happen to be absolute scoring machines in their individual sport, and undoubtedly one of the best players in each of their sports. The size comparison may be a little off, but the scoring machine/versatility point certainly must hold some validity in your mind as a soccer fan.

  • http://dimemag.com/ Camron Ghorbi

    @ M Intellect

    Thank you for the thoughtful response – I agree with some of the past comments, including the ’01 Iverson or ’04 Kobe, but the fact that I was choosing players in their current stages affected the decision. Obviously, each player is not going to match up perfectly (Messi and Durant height-wise come to mind), but I decided to choose the players that I thought matched up in the most categories re: playing style.

  • FedEx

    I won’t comment on the comparisons, but seriously…you have to change the British part about Lampard. There’s no Britain in football, that part alone makes this whole article lose any credibility it might have otherwise.

  • Pedro

    hehe.. british.. i ddn’t knew england, scotland, wales and nrt.ireland were going to create a joint national team. Is Churcill the manager?

  • Dayo

    Christiano Ronaldo – Manu Ginobili. Both are extremely talented players, who are equally known for their skillfulness as they are known for their flopping!!! Fortunately or unfortunately (depends on whether you are a fan or not), their playing styles tend to confuse the refs, as they really make it seem like there was contact from the defender.
    That’s a lot more than can be said for Derek Fisher. Dude’s always throwing his hands in the air (and throwing his antiquated head back) like he’s been shot by a shot-gun! And that’s even before the screener comes to set the screen!!! Or just as he sees the person he’s guarding making a cut!!!

  • http://lacksagoo.wordpress.com Lacksagoo

    Recall this is an NBA to Soccer comparison- it’s equally important to have knowledge of both. So every back-seat blogger out there should understand that the author isn’t an idiot for knowing less about Soccer than those who live and breathe the stuff (at least any more than you are idiots for knowing less about the NBA than he does- and trust me, you do).

  • haslem


    I like what you did here and as a Euro I’m deff a soccer fan.

    While people are pointing out it dosen’t match up perfectly. well that’s probably because we are comparing apples and oranges, so no shit.

    Drogba is definitely Lebron there’s no two ways about it. He’s a beast (like Lebron) he’s just a specimen. While you guys can read into it all you’d like it makes sense.

    When I saw Messi as KD all I could say was “of course” Yea KD is a 6’9 SF, but so what? they are two of the purest scorers in the world (pureness due to ability and versatility in doing so)

    Sure some were a lil off (Ronaldo is not D Rose, Ronaldo is one of the greatest in the game, he’s more like AI or the knee jerk would be to say Kobe he’s that good)

  • haslem

    good effort overall.

    As far as Britain being Scotland and Wales as well, who cares? Geography doesn’t invalidate his soccer knowledge.

  • Bandolero

    Good Job Dime!!! Some of us aren’t sucker fans… but this comparisons are very helpful… Go Argentina*

    *Their couch Diego Armando Maradona is like Bob Knight times 10!

  • http://~ username

    Can’t blame Dime for trying but i don’t think ppl will be looking to Dime for their WC 2010 analysis & updates.

    “Nick Taubes (cmt 24)” list is by far more accurate and complete than the one put out by dime. However in my opinion many of these players do not belong in the same class. Only 3 truly stand out from the rest of the group in terms of skill and effectiveness. They are RONALDO, MESSI & ROONEY, the rest are some way behind them although arguments can be made.

    Ronaldo-Kobe (before the number change to #24/got what it takes to be the best)
    Messi-Wade (amazing player but relatively small. Can make a case for Durant in terms of skill as the Sky is the limit for him)
    Rooney-Lebron (Drogba is way too “soft” to be compared to him. Rooney is the complete player, strong in all the important areas required for football but not necessarily the best. Similar to lebron in basketball.

    The rest is irrelevant as none of the other players countries chances rely solely on how far that particular player will take them.


  • haslem

    it was good as a if you only watch the NBA, here is the soccer comparisons. Some basic comparisons to give you a gist. It wasn’t meant for nuanced soccer fans to be enlightened.

  • http://dimemag.com/ Camron Ghorbi

    @ username

    I’d tend to agree with a lot of your suggestions, but I don’t think that necessarily invalidates whichever comparisons are listed. As Haslem mentions, it’s like apples and oranges, so obviously no comparison will work perfectly.

    Like I mentioned before, the Ronaldo to Rose comparison was based on each (arguably) known as fastest player with the ball in their respective sports and each having the most lethal of crossovers in each of their sports – keeping in mind, obviously as mentioned, that a crossover in basketball is very different than a crossover in soccer, for what it entails and how often its used, impact on the game, etc.

    If you could go back in time and compare the players more perfectly with their impact on the game AT that time, which would you choose? AI ’01 and Messi now seems to be a common comparison, but obviously AI now is not comparable to Messi’s current form. Can anyone shout out a similar list of players in their past forms to soccer players now? (e.g. Garnett on the Wolves, ’01 AI, etc.)

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idLG6jh23yE username

    @ Camron Ghorbi & DIME
    you guys kick ass for responding back to the ppl who leave comments~ i think its really cool of you guys to do that.
    after reading your article again i’m really impressed with the info you gave on each player although i didn’t always agree with the players you picked to compare. i’m curious if you follow the sport much or are only getting into it now for the world cup?

    i’m watching the argentina game now and you guys are right, MESSI is definitely an 01′ AI, like for like.
    as for the ROONEY-LEBRON thing, they are even similar in the way that both their domestic teams (CAVS & MAN U) rely on them way too much to carry them and they’re both gonna need help to win in 2011.

    like i said before though, for people who don’t follow football so much i really feel that the 3 guys i singled out before are the ones to watch out for. more so than any other in the list as their respective performances in the WC will be scrutinized more than any other player in the above list. they are world class. following the other guys might disappoint you if your not into football so much. you can even also argue that you’ve left plenty of ppl off that list as well.

    Maybe you guys should have done a nba team-world cup team comparison~ that might’ve helped ppl choose which teams to watch instead of comparing individual players because in football no player is bigger than their team/club unlike in basketball where some players control the team and not the actual organisation/club.

    If you guys haven’t seen the NIKE FOOTBALL “Write The Future” commercial, it is a must see. that’ll give you a good idea of what some of the players are like.

  • http://dimemag.com/ Camron Ghorbi


    I’ve always been a pretty avid soccer fan, and have been following international soccer for some time now – most of my life, to be honest. Many have disagreed with the comparisons in the list, noting my “self-evident lack of soccer knowledge” (notably my inclusion of Fabregas, who I undoubtedly have a huge mancrush on), but I’ve tried to defend my selections.

    I agree with your note on the three – Messi, Ronaldo and Rooney – who are certainly head and shoulders above as the world’s three best players. Rooney had a pretty disappointing performance against the USA, but Messi undoubtedly shined, despite his lack of finishing touch today. We’ll see about Cristiano.

    Which teams would you have selected on a team comparison basis? Any initial ideas?

  • tim

    Whoever said ibra is better than eto’o is an idiot. Despite being spanish and real madrid fan, in my eyes eto’o would be my fav striker to have on a dream team with raul. ETO’O = much better than IBRAHIMOVIC. NO, cuz wait cameroon’s in the world cup, where’s sweden? also, funny how pfs can’t be compared. ALSO, CANNAVARO = B.BOWEN. NO ONE CAN DENY THIS!

  • http://identi.ca/bruteback Celia Acres

    I love the world cup SOO much….the only thing i hate about it is the fact that it doesent go FOREVER…LOL……i just hope there is no serious injuries to my Favourite Players