NBA / Sep 10, 2010 / 10:00 am

1990’s vs. 2010 NBA Comparisons

Who is the new 'Zo?

As time passes, the faces change, but the game stays the same. As a result, it’s easy to notice similarities between NBA players from different eras.

The Golden Age for me as a basketball fan was the early-1990s. Those days were filled with a lot of up-and-comers with plenty of style like Shaq, Penny and Kenny Anderson. Add to that the stars from the ’80s like Isiah, Michael and Hakeem who were able solidify their careers and win the ultimate prize within that period, and a host of other memorable characters.

Looking back at the good old days (at least for me), let’s compare some players from that era to the players of today:

Kevin Johnson was one of the most underrated point guards of all-time. At just 6-foot-1 he was a regular 20-ppg scorer (five times in his career) who also handed out 9.1 assists per night. Putting up those kind of numbers is a huge feat that only elite PG’s are able to accomplish. KJ was ruthless attacking the basket, creating famous highlights like his dunks on Olajuwon and Hot Rod Williams.

The closest to filling KJ’s shoes in today’s game is Chris Paul. Similar in size, CP3 puts up similar number to Johnson with ease, averaging 19.3 points and 10.0 assists for his career so far. Although Paul doesn’t have as many memorable facials as Johnson, his dunk on Dwight Howard definitely puts him in the discussion of a Kevin Johnson-type of player.

Clyde “The Glide” was a player whose overall skills were overshadowed by his ability to fly. The same could be said about Iguodala. While the Sixers’ star has improved his ball-handling and shooting and is showing his complete game with Team USA this summer, he’s mostly known for getting out on the break and throwing it down. Also, just like Clyde — who won his NBA championship playing with Hakeem — Iguodala may be better suited being the No. 2 option on a championship team than trying to be a franchise player.

The first All-Star of the old franchise in Charlotte was Larry Johnson. Gerald Wallace is the first All-Star for the new franchise in Charlotte. Both players have proven themselves as big-time rebounders despite being undersized for the power forward spot. (Wallace switches between the three and the four.) Johnson, a 6-6, has a couple of double-double seasons under his belt, while Wallace, 6-7, averaged 18.2 points and 10.0 boards this year.

Even during a time when his competition included Karl Malone and Charles Barkley, Kemp, a.k.a. “The Reign Man,” was arguably the marquee power forward of the early ’90s. Running with an All-NBA point guard in Gary Payton, Kemp was in the highlights on the regular for finishing Payton’s dimes with monster dunks. Amar’e Stoudemire is the Shawn Kemp of this era. Being on the receiving end of some great assist from two-time MVP Steve Nash, Stoudemire’s game is a splitting image of Kemp’s game: powerful finishes at the rim complemented by an underrated offensive repertoire.

Dwight Howard is an intimidating defensive force who — despite his oft-criticized offensive game — can still drop 20 points on you at the other end. His strong build and skills as a rebounder and shot-blocker draws a clear comparison to Alonzo Mourning. ‘Zo won two NBA Defensive Player of the Year Awards. Howard has matched that total already, and it’s safe to say a few more are on the way before his career is over.

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  • Mike “Yahoo! Exclusive” Mihalow

    Ah, the good old days. You should put those teams to the test (via simulation) in NBA 2K11 (if al those players are all available).

  • Jdstorm

    2010 kobe=1990s MJ
    1990s kobe = 2010 tyreeke evans

  • Ross

    clyde-iguodala bad compariosn…..one is a hall of fame top 50 greatest of all time. The other is….also@jdstorm: Kobe and tyreke evans comparison..im going to take that as a typo or you meant something else.

  • Alex “Robocop” Murphy

    I like it. Simulate it!

  • JA

    I don’t want to hate on Iggy, but I feel you are disrespecting The Glide here.

  • Alex “Robocop” Murphy

    I think the 90’s team would win because at least they have shooting, toughness, heart, and championship experience. Can’t say much about the other team.

  • Alex “Robocop” Murphy

    The 1990’s team also has better nicknames.

    Reign Man
    The Glide

  • Alex “Robocop” Murphy

    KJ > CP3
    The Glide > AI2
    Grandmama > Crash
    The Reign Man > STAT
    The Ultimate Warrior > The Centaur

  • JAY

    I think there is a better comparison to a young ‘Zo than Dwight Howard. His name is Al Horford.

    “Stoudemire’s game is a splitting image of Kemp’s game”
    Ummmm…. not exactly, Dime. Kemp was one of the league’s best defenders and played high intensity basketball. Amare, not so much. Other than the dunking, playing with a future HOF pg, and not playing a minute of NCAA basketball, the similarities stop there.

  • Brown

    Aside from the superstars, today’s players couldn’t hang with the players from that era. The skill level is probably about the same, but the heart, desire and competitiveness isn’t even close to being on par with the players from that era. The role players from the 90s would mop the floor with today’s role players.

  • hooper5013

    DAMN y’all disrespected The Glide. Iggy? That would be a ridiculously high tempo game, there is not one shooter on the court on either side lol. Pretty good comparisons though outside of Drexler and Iggy.

  • DH

    @Jay – How in the hell is Horford a better comparison to ‘Zo than Dwight? No way Horford is, or ever will be, half the defender ‘Zo is.

  • Big Island

    Gotta agree with a couple of guys here, Iggy and Clyde?!?! Not even close. The LJ/Wallace for that matter is pretty bad too.

  • JAY

    Zo and Horford… same build

    Horford: 6’10” 245
    Zo: 6’10” 245
    Dwight 6’11” 265 <—- bullshit, he's closer to 275-280.

    Zo: had post moves and a jumper
    Horford: has post moves and a jumper
    Dwight: has no post moves and no jumper

    Zo hit his free throws (he even hit the 3 when they brought the line in)
    Horford hits his free throws
    Dwight can't hit his free throws

    Hell, Horford's game movements even look like Zo'.

    The ONLY reason Dwight has averaged +20pts is because his GM stacked the team with 3pt shooters. You think he does that if he played for his hometown Hawks??

    All I'm saying is this… when I think of players similar to Zo'… Horford is the first player who comes to mind. I'm looking at their whole game, not just the defensive end. If we're just looking at just the defensive end then I can compare Dwight to Mark Eaton, which is probably closer than a Mourning comparison. Dikembe too.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Andrew Macaluso

    @ JAY

    As a big Horford fan – former Gator – I have to agree that he’s a little closer to ‘Zo than Howard. I see Howard as more of Hakeem “The Dream.”

  • Hucklebuck

    gotta defend Hakeem.

    Howard is NO Hakeem. Defensive player? yes. Rebounding? yes.

    Howard is more from the tree of Dikembe Mutombo.
    They say Howard is an athlete, but does anyone remember another player who was a center, shot blocker, and also ripped? DAVID ROBINSON. now that guy was an athlete.

  • Showtime

    I didn’t bother to hate on the Glide/Iggy and Grandma/Crash Wallace comparisons but now you are taking it to far. There are like ZERO similiarities between Hakeem and Dwight Howard

  • karizmatic

    I don’t think there really is a golden age of basketball, each era has its legends and its stars.

    I think Deron Williams is closer to Kevin Johnson than Chris Paul.

  • http://www.biggieo.blogspot.com Big O

    Kenny Anderson = Brandon Jennings

  • matt

    i like the kemp comparison to amare, but only because both aare 6`10 and were the premier big men posterizers of their era. Other than that, kemp was better at D, and amare more skilled offensively

  • Thirsty

    I like Iggy, but clyde led the blazers to two finals before he went to Houston. Iggy’s only 27, right? He’s still young, but you can’t compare him to the glide, the blazers would have gotten the 92 ring if it wasn’t for Jordan.

  • Thirsty

    loved the post though

  • JAY

    @Matt: Amare is not more skilled offensively than Kemp. Funny how people forget. Kemp was crossing over dudes. He ran the floor better than any other bigman before him, and only a few run the floor as good as him today. He also had range on his jumper

  • hooper5013

    @Jay: I am going to have to disagree. Amare is much more skilled offensively than Amare. With that being said, Kemp would have ripped Amare’s heart out of his chest and probably made him virtually a Non factor had they played against each other.

    @Karizmatic Deron Williams skillset resembles nothing even remotely close to Kevin Johnson (KJ’s jumper was GARBAGE truck juice)

    Zo was so much better than Horford at the same stage but the skill sets do compare well. Also would would you compare to Penny Hardaway?

  • the_don_mega

    John Starks = ???

  • https://twitter.com/PoppiGEE POPPI GEE

    “Iguodala may be better suited being the No. 2 option on a championship team than trying to be a franchise player.”

    So True

    clear comparison / splitting image — Don’t know if you can really use those words in these comparisons.

    Funny I always thought it was spitting image. Guess I am wrong?

    I don’t see where Larry and Gerald really match but I know it’s opinion.

  • Ian


    the admiral would make howard look like at a baby and who the hell compared the dream to howard.

  • Hucklebuck

    I think Deron Williams is like a Penny Hardaway in terms of what he did offensively. Both were the earlier versions of the combo guard from the PG, both were shooters, both could put up big numbers, both used size to out-muscle smaller guards, and both were good defensively.

    Brandon Jennings is more Kenny Anderson than than Iverson (like most people say!). I agree with that earlier post.

  • derik

    Iggy is more like Stacey Augmon in his prime, the Plastic man!

  • slick ric

    @ Robocop, no disrespect to Kj because he was good but CP3 is better.

  • slick ric

    Penny Hardaway = Tyreke Evans(without Athleticism).

  • flegman

    I’m picking the 90s in any case.
    There is no comparison.

  • flegman

    DCwight Howard=Anthony Mason.

    OK, kidding.
    but fact: big muscles, no post moves.

  • pao

    Penny Hardaway and Tyreke Evans. Big PGs. Though Penny is Jordan without the injuries.

  • flegman

    And that is disrespecting Drexler. Shame on this post.

  • http://getyourishbusted.net Chicagorilla

    Howard is no Zo. Niether is Horford, although Horford is good, is more of a PF anyway. Zo is a true undersized cetner.

    Howard = Shaq from the 90’s. I know it seems cliche, but that’s pretty much who Howard plays like. Shaq had better post moves, but Howard has more hustle and will to improve. Shaq was the same player from 92 til 2010. His potiential was much higher, but he never reached it IMO.

    CP3 = Isiah Thomas
    As a Chicagoan this is blashemus but it’s true. CP3 controls the game like no other. Even playing great defense (as long as his minutes aren’t too high). He is also a true leader like Zeke was

    Deron Williams = Gary Payton
    The only difference is Williams is a better shooter and Payton was a better defender. But their games are much alike.

    G.Wallace = Stacy Augmon
    Sure Wallace is putting up better numbers, but they played the exact same way. With Wallace benifiting from rule changes more that Stacy.

    Horford = Otis Thorpe/Buck Williams
    If you don’t think they played the same game then you missed a huge chunk of basketball during the 90’s. tough D, solid jumpers, good finishers around the basket. All 3 of these guys are the ideal PF.

    DWade = Clyde Drexler
    Attacks the basket the same way, head down and looking to hurt the rim. Reliable jumpers to keep the D honest. Great #1 players who can lead a team to the finals with just a little help. Wade benifits greatly from the rule changes. but identical numbers throughout career as clyde was a good rebounder and passer and defender just like Wade. Wade will probably end up being better than Clyde overall one day, but as for right now, he’s Clyde.

    And the closest to Zo
    Emaka Oakafor, but Zo is so much better it’s hard to compare. Emeka is like a poor mans Alonzo Mourning.

  • jysn

    penny hardaway= shaun livingston

  • karizmatic

    I’ll take the Deron Williams is Gary Payton and I think people have been saying for a long time that CP3 is like a new Isaiah.

  • sh!tfaced

    2010 = 1990’s

    Adam Morrison = Danny Ferry
    Brain Scalabrine = Jack Haley
    Kwame Brown = Joe Klein
    Calvin Booth = Jim McIlvaine
    Chucky Hayes = Marty Conlon (ugly ass freethrow shooting)

  • sh!tfaced

    Nice comparisons though. Just a little off with Glide = AI2 and Dwight = Zo…

  • Slips

    I think the amare / kemp + howard / zo (although howard doesn’t have a jumper) comparisons are pretty spot on, but not too sure about the others.

    Isiah’s the perfect comparison to paul, but you’re looking for a 90s player, right? I think of paul as a rich man’s mookie blaylock. Paul’s listed at 6′, 175 lbs, whereas blaylock was listed at 6′, 180 lbs. Blaylock wasn’t nearly as good of a shooter as paul, but he was a great all around PG who could pass, rebound, and defend quite well. He avg’d over 4 RPG 6 times in his career, and finished top 5 in SPG 9 times (leading the league twice). I do stress paul being a rich man’s blaylock. Isiah’s obviously the better comparison. As for Johnson, he was a much more powerful PG. You’re not going to see paul dunking on anyone in games.

    The one comparison that really seemed like a stretch was larry johnson + gerald wallace. They have completely different body types, and really played different positions. Wallace is your prototypical SF, whereas johnson was an undersized PF, and played PF until he arrived in NY and started to settle for the 3 ball, moving to SF. Wallace is one of the best defenders in the game due to his length and athleticism. While johnson was certainly athletic in his prime, he used his brute strength to his advantage defensively as well as offensively. Wallace actually reminds me of Jerome Kersey, who could rebound well for a SF, and routinely avg’d nearly a block and steal per game.

    I know AI puts up similar stats in comparison to drexler, but I don’t think he has nearly the bball IQ that drexler did. I’m not sure that wade is really a better comparison, though, considering wade’s game uses a lot more power, and i’d have no problem saying that drexler was a much better jump shooter.

    Also, to the guy who compared anderson to jennings, THANK YOU! I think people forget that anderson had the best handle in the league back then, and jennings shows a lot of that.

  • Ian

    damn shitfaced ferry was 100 times better than morrison.

  • Hucklebuck

    I’m not too sure with Deron and Gary. They aren’t the same of defense, Deron doesn’t post up, and Deron shoots a little better from the mid-range.
    I see the similarities in being scoring point guard, but I can’t really see it.

    Horford to me if more of an Antione Carr kind of player. Thorpe and Buck scored on garbage points more than jumpers and post ups.

  • DNice

    is there someone who compares to the worm Dennis Rodman? I say the closest thing is the birdman Chris Anderson

  • http://getyourishbusted.net Chicagorilla


    No one in the NBA compares to the Worm as far as talent goes. Actually Crash Wallace is the closest to the 90’s version of Rodman.

    Yes Payton was more of a post up Guard, but he also used the pick in roll with Kemp to get Kemp some easy buckets. Because Deron is under Sloan, he’ll be using the pick-n-roll 100X’s more. But they are similar in terms of how they lead, how they try to take over a game, and how they used their big physical frames to cause mis-matches for opposin guards

    Also I like the Kemp/Stat comparisons

    People try to knock Stat for rebounds but i’m pretty sure career wise on numbers they are close to the same (9rpg). Kemp was a good jump shooter by the mid-90’s and still attacked the rim with reckless abandon (until he was shipped to Clev). Stat attacks the rim and has a comparable handle to Kemp (I think someone mention Kemps handle) which allows him to use his speed to get around bigger and slower centers/forwards. their IQ’s are pretty equal as well and they both played with guards who set them up nicely.

  • jackie moon

    the reignman…brings back good memories.

    dwight needs to develop at least a shot other than his running hook to be compared to dream. but defensively, yeah it works

    Crash ain’t even close to LJ, game-wise. LJ was an undersized post player with a real back-down game. LJ wasn’t also hustling all over the court like crash hehe.

  • http://deleted dagwaller

    Closest thing to Drexler right now, fittingly, is B-Roy. Smooth, might not be a #1, but can take their teams to highs. Good IQ, too.

    B Roy can’t quite fly like the Glide, though.

  • Ryan

    Whats with all the hating on Dwight…If he was super demonstrative and chest pumping they would call him a thug or ghetto…but since he is super nice then people hate on that. Over the last three years he is a 20.0 per scorer and is a constant double team threat but yet people say he can’t score. Most of this is people who don’t really watch Dwight ever and just go by the stereotypes about him. If you listened to people and had never seen him play you would think he was like Mutumbo (who had no post game if you watch ball…he would dribble ten times and then shoot this crazy looking Kareem sky hook and that was really it he averaged over like 11.0 per game for career) but a really wussy version who runs and laughs. He’s 24 and already the two time DPOY and the first ever to lead the league in BLK and REB for two consecutive seasons. Oh yeah and he has a better playoff record than Labron. HE WILL BE LOOKED AT AS A NO BRAINER BETTER THAN ZO WHEN PEOPLE LOOK BACK IN THE END. Sorry

  • sh!tfaced


    I’d agree if you said Ferry is 100 times smarter than Morrison…

  • snuffkin

    zo- al horford: same build, same skills. and right now al is arguably 2nd to dwight for best east centers. joakim noah could qualify as well for zo, for his energy and game.

    payton- chris paul: exlude injuries since glove had a really healthy nba career!.

    kemp -amare: could have been kmart, but the injuries slowed him down.

    shaq – dwight: closest thing. now dwight pls get some post moves.

    penny (minus injuries!)- lebron: lebron is more magic than mj23. lebron is more of a bulldozer than penny, but with they have similar playmaking skills.

    mj- kobe: no one has emulated mj’s game better than kobe. plus he’s about to get that 6th ring!

    kj- derrick rose: hyper athleticism and in your face jams.

  • Ian

    hehe i include smarts when i say a x player is better than the other

  • jayknows

    So who is the 90s version of D-Rose, B-Jennings, R-Westbrook, S-Curry, R-Rondo, J-Nelson, and although not a PG.. K-Durant?

    they didn’t exist back then (atleast not in this volume) and the league has improved since then due to an overall athletic improvement in America.

    Great story. wrong point made.

    Agree or Disagree peeps lemme know.

  • Sac

    How in the world could Casey Mack Call Shawn Kemp The “Marquee power forward” in the NBA, over the likes of Charles Barkley and Karl Malone. You guys got to be kidding me? Right? Shawn Kemp was a great physical specimen, but he was a dumb, childish, low IQ (but fantastic highlights) player!! That’s not right!

    And I’ll take Kevin Johnson in that match up vs Chris Paul.

    I think KJ would destroy Paul on offense (just way to quick, but can still control the ball) and always find a man to pass to in the process when he’s grabbed.

    I don’t really care about the other positions.

  • Sac

    PS: The others above are right! Stop dissing Clyde The Clyde, by comparing him to Iguodala. Not fair!

  • Sac

    I love both Clyde and Dwayne Wade. But I feel Wade is better, because he’s better ball handler in the half court game, doesn’t force the issue as much and will rip your heart out when it counts.

    Wades jumper is also better than Clyde’s, cause Wade hits that jumper routinely in game winning situations with defenders hanging all over him. Clyde can’t (kicking out his legs or not). Clyde also did not have good form on his jump shot, though it went in. Wade’s form is much better.

    I’d also have to agree with some above (I thought it but didn’t care at first), that you’re kinda insulting Zo a little by comparing him to Howard. Zo had a little bit more of an offensive game (though he always appeared kinda awkward to me), and he was (as far as I can remember) a more reliable free throw shooter than Howard.

    And of course, Zo was just as strong and physical as Howard.

    And yes, for those bigging up Isiah. I always thought he was the best UNDER 6’3-4″ player I ever seen (didn’t see Nate Archibald or Cousy play). And probably the only starter of that size that can consistently dominate the game from the back court due to his extreme speed, ball handling, quickness, cleverness, passing, B.Ball instincts and shooting!

    Shoot! If we chose up some teams in the playground and your team picked Magic. I wouldn’t complain if I had Isiah, especially if I had some size on my team. Not at all. But of course he was mostly the 80’s.

    Yeah. That Chris Paul, Kevin Johnson Match Up would be interesting. But I would actually love to watch Chris Paul take on my Man Tim Hardaway. I loved him!!

    Now that’s a point guard (Hardaway)that can shoot his ass off for real (and he was a good volume/double digit assist guy to)!

    I gotta get out of here now. You guys wrote too much to respond to. Lol.

    Good stuff though!

  • Stewart

    Iggy is no where near Drexler, his j-ball is terrible at its best. Derrick Rose and Kevin Johnson is a great comparison. They both attack the rim and they do not have the best jumpers. Deron Williams jumper is way better than Payton’s but the comparison is on point.

  • Rainman

    wtf? ummm…


    was a MUCH better comparison than paul-johnson

  • Ben

    Horford is same build as Zo? Howard is bigger?


    Zo was 6’10” 265, essentially the same as Howard. Alonzo was also the only guy in his era built like Howard – 99% muscle, big broad shoulders, extremely atheletic and capable of running/jumping.

    Zo/Howard is the best physical comparison of any two players imaginable from those two eras, imo.