Manga Jerk is a personal project by Mark de Vera, Publishing Sales Manager of VIZ Media and a lifelong fan of the medium. Manga Jerk is a reflection of Mark's experience as an American manga fan, a unique perspective built from years of reading, a network of like-minded manga professionals and his personal growth and view on the world.

Kuroko’s Basketball: The Miracle Generation and their NBA Counterparts - Part One

Kuroko’s Basketball: The Miracle Generation and their NBA Counterparts - Part One

As the NBA Playoffs have progressed I have found myself more and more obsessed with basketball. After work and on weekends I’m either watching live basketball or watching basketball videos on YouTube. Even my manga consumption has become filled with basketball!

The past week I tore through all available volumes of Shonen Jump’s Kuroko’s Basketball, the story of Tetsuya Kuroko and the basketball club of Seirin High taking on the legendary players of the Miracle Generation. Kuroko’s Basketball is a manga that I knew about for years, but up until now I wrote it off as an out of this world parody of Slam Dunk or as cleverly crafted bait to attract fujoshi to Shonen Jump (I haven’t completely let go of the idea that this may have been the case). However after reading through twelve volumes of the thirty volume sports manga I find that I unironically enjoy Kuroko’s Basketball. It has become one of my favorite Shonen Jump series of the past decade.

 That's right,  Slam Dunk  hipsters. I said I like  Kuroko's Basketball .

That's right, Slam Dunk hipsters. I said I like Kuroko's Basketball.

Kuroko’s Basketball is a fast moving series that goes through several games between the many teams it introduces at a brisk and satisfying pace. In between and during the intense games the manga portrays there are great moments of levity and drama shown through interactions between the loveable characters that Tadatoshi Fujimaki created. While reading the manga has by itself been a satisfying experience what has added to the experience is my real life interest in the sport of basketball. It has been a lot of fun trying to figure out who the real life counterparts of the characters in Kuroko’s Basketball are. Who in the NBA plays like Kuroko? Who resembles Kise? How about Midorima?

This article takes us through the Miracle Generation, the legendary lineup from Kuroko’s Teiko Middle School Team, and finds who each player’s NBA counterpart is.

Tetsuya Kuroko - Seirin #11 - Point Guard

 For a character with a lack of personality I find that I really like Tetsuya Kuroko.

For a character with a lack of personality I find that I really like Tetsuya Kuroko.

When thinking of which NBA player resembles Tetsuya Kuroko, the quiet yet ambitious protagonist of Kuroko’s Basketball, I focused in on his elite passing as well as his ability to be overlooked. The idea of trying to figure out which NBA player has the ability to be overlooked seemed almost ridiculous. To use that as criteria for selecting a comparison to Kuroko would seem to lead to a dead end, but in actuality it made the selection easier for myself.

For Tetsuya Kuroko’s NBA counterpart I have chosen John Stockton, the legendary point guard of the Utah Jazz.

 He's got legendary passing, but how exactly is John Stockton "overlooked"?

He's got legendary passing, but how exactly is John Stockton "overlooked"?

John Stockton is not a perfect comparison to Kuroko. While Kuroko is known to be a terrible scorer, John Stockton was a skilled one who averaged around 15-17 points per game during his peak years with a career field goal percentage of 51.5%. With that said what Stockton and Kuroko do have in common are elite passing abilities. Stockton’s passing ability is legendary simply by the numbers with a career average of 10.5 assists per game and 15,806 total career assists, a total which is an NBA record that is nearly 4,000 more than the second highest record. If that is not impressive enough the spectacle of Stockton’s passes surely is. There are hours of John Stockton’s highlight videos showcasing his beautiful and accurate assists to teammates such as fellow hall-of-famer Karl Malone (who I suppose would be Taiga Kagami in this case). If at any time Kuroko’s passing abilities seem ridiculous or exaggerated then look no further than footage of John Stockton’s skillful assists.

But how exactly is John Stockton “overlooked” in the same way that Kuroko is? It is hard to say that one of the greatest players of the 90s and one of the greatest point guards in history is “overlooked,” isn’t it? Perhaps not. Of the many positive claims to fame that John Stockton enjoys a negative one is his reputation as a dirty player. Specifically his reputation as a player who was skillful at hiding fouls. It was said that Stockton would grab jerseys, scratch and claw on defense and push players when the referee was not looking, acts which one can say were “overlooked.” If we are to buy into the idea that Stockton and his tactics were often “overlooked” then that may explain the reason why in addition to having the NBA record for assists he also has the NBA record for steals with 3,265. It would seem that being “overlooked” provides some unique benefits. Perhaps Kuroko should take note for his college years.

 I think Kuroko is not fully utilizing his powers of misdirection. Perhaps instead of Vanishing Drive he should have developed a Vanishing Shove...or a Vanishing Dick Kick.

I think Kuroko is not fully utilizing his powers of misdirection. Perhaps instead of Vanishing Drive he should have developed a Vanishing Shove...or a Vanishing Dick Kick.

Adding to the idea that John Stockton was an “overlooked” player with Kuroko’s lack of presence is the true story about Stockton and his family walking around Barcelona in the summer of 1996, the summer in which Stockton was part of the legendary Olympic Dream Team. While players such as Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone could not walk an inch without being stopped by fans, John Stockton was able to enjoy the streets and sights of Barcelona without being recognized. There is even footage of Stockton and his family talking to an American fan wearing a Dream Team shirt, one with a caricature of Stockton, without her realizing that she was speaking to a member of the team! There is a chance that Kuroko couldn’t have even gotten away with that one!

Honorable Mention: Rajon Rondo is another good choice for Tetsuya Kuroko. Like Kuroko, Rondo is known as a poor scorer, especially on the free throw line. Also like Kuroko, Rondo is known for flashy assists to his All Star teammates such as the Boston Celtics’ Big Three (who I suppose are kind of like an NBA Miracle Generation). In some ways Rondo may have been a more logical comparison to Kuroko, but the ways in which John Stockton was “overlooked” were just too fun to ignore.

 Kuroko and Rondo - Flashy passes to more talented teammates.

Kuroko and Rondo - Flashy passes to more talented teammates.

Ryota Kise - Kaijo #7 - Small Forward

 We've seen copycat abilities work for ninja. Surely they work for basketball players too, right?

We've seen copycat abilities work for ninja. Surely they work for basketball players too, right?

While I found it relatively easy to find a player who was “overlooked” in the same way as Tetsuya Kuroko it is harder to find a player with the ability to copy other players. Who does that? Why would someone do that? If somebody were to copy a player then it better be one hell of a player. It better be the greatest player of all time, a LeBron James or a Michael Jordan...oh wait. There is a basketball player who has successfully copied the play style of the GOAT…

For Ryota Kise’s NBA counterpart I have chosen Kobe Bryant, the legendary shooting guard of the Los Angeles Lakers.

 If you're going to copy a player, why not copy the best?

If you're going to copy a player, why not copy the best?

As a basketball fan who had witnessed a portion of Michael Jordan’s hall of fame career by the time he too became an NBA player, there was no better shooting guard for Kobe Bryant to emulate than the greatest himself. If there was a player with a style that a young Kobe Bryant would have wanted to copy it was Michael Jordan’s. And so he did.

Like Jordan, Bryant is one of the greatest scorers in history with a career average of 25 points per game. Through Bryant’s career many of these points were scored with shooting techniques that closely resemble Jordan’s. A YouTube creator by the name of Youssef Hannoun has put together videos with footage of Bryant and Jordan scoring at different points in their careers, and the similarities are uncanny. The shots the two hall-of-fame players make are nearly identical, the most notable being the unique way in which both players made their fade away shots.

In addition to copying Jordan’s playstyle, Kobe also resembled Jordan in terms of significance to his generation. Michael Jordan was an absolute spectacle in the 90s bringing the sport of basketball many great moments through personal achievements, clutch play and playoff runs. Kobe Bryant delivered the same spectacle to basketball fans in the 2000s with unbelievable scoring, the most notable being an 81 point win against the Toronto Raptors, and five NBA championship wins. While basketball fans whimsically poke fun at Bryant’s emulation of Jordan, it doesn’t seem that the GOAT has a problem with it. Michael Jordan has said himself, “I absolutely have high regard for Kobe Bryant. Even though he stole all my moves, but that’s okay. I still love him like a brother.”

Perhaps Kise should focus less on copying other players on the court and copy one good player...oh wait. He does…

 Am I alluding to which player I'm comparing Daiki Aomine to? Maybe...

Am I alluding to which player I'm comparing Daiki Aomine to? Maybe...

Honorable Mention: Another way to view Kise’s copycat ability is that he can skillfully alter his play on both offense and defense. Taking this into account, Kawhi Leonard, one of today’s best two way players, is an excellent choice for honorable mention. In terms of defense Leonard has proven himself to be one of the best in history with back to back Defensive Player of the Year awards (2015 and 2016). In terms of offense Leonard is not only the leader of the San Antonio Spurs, but also one of the league’s leaders with an excellent talent for both driving to the rim and shooting the ball. To further add to the Kise comparison, it is often said that Leonard’s fadeaway shot resembles Michael Jordan’s. Perhaps Leonard also copied the GOAT...along with many other talented offensive and defensive players as well!

 Maybe it is better to copy all the great players instead of just one of them.

Maybe it is better to copy all the great players instead of just one of them.

Shintaro Midorima - Shutoku #6 - Shooting Guard

 Arguably the most ridiculous member of the Miracle Generation and the inspiration for this article.

Arguably the most ridiculous member of the Miracle Generation and the inspiration for this article.

Of all the players in the Miracle Generation I had the easiest time finding an NBA counterpart for Shintaro Midorima, the three-point sharpshooter from Shutoku. In fact, the comparison between Midorima and the player I selected is the inspiration for this article. While watching basketball games the past two seasons I found myself yelling “MIDORIMA” at times that this player made three point shots, especially at the times in which the shots were most ridiculous.

For Shintaro Midorima’s NBA counterpart I have chosen Stephen Curry, the point guard of the Golden State Warriors and the two-time league MVP.

 I'd like to think that this was an obvious choice.

I'd like to think that this was an obvious choice.

The criteria which led me to choose Stephen Curry as the counterpart of Shintaro Midorima is completely based on their three point shooting ability. The three point shooting ability of Midorima is arguably one of the most exaggerated and unrealistic aspects of Kuroko’s Basketball. Upon seeing Midorima’s near perfect three point shooting percentage and his unlimited range, many a basketball fan would shake their head and say “No one shoots like this. This is unreal.” The thing is I feel as though the same exact words can be said about Stephen Curry, the Baby Faced Assassin of the Golden State Warriors.

 "THAT'S SO FUCKING STUPID" either refers to Shintaro Midorima's fictional abilities or Stephen Curry's real life abilities.

"THAT'S SO FUCKING STUPID" either refers to Shintaro Midorima's fictional abilities or Stephen Curry's real life abilities.

Curry’s three-point shooting is at an elite level. His world class shooting has often resulted in scoring onslaughts that have left teams devastated. How motivated can a team remain when their best efforts are quickly cut down by a few Curry shots? How great can you feel about your lead when there is a threat like Stephen Curry on the field who can bring his team on top in a matter of seconds? Whether landing a tough shot after zigzagging through four defenders or ending a game with a half-court shot, Stephen Curry’s three point shooting ability has often seemed as unreal as that of the fictional Shintaro Midorima.

If the beauty and drama of Curry’s three-point shooting was not enough to make his ability seem unreal then his record breaking accomplishments surely would. Curry has broken the record for the most made three point shots in a regular season on three occasions (2013, 2015 and 2016). Curry’s record of 402 three point shots is far away from the second best record of 324...a record that is also his own from the 2017 regular season. He holds the record for the most consecutive games with a three-point shot made at 157, a shooting streak which ended in November 2016. Whatever taste of defeat Curry had did not last long since the very next game he broke the record for the most three point shots made in a single game with thirteen. Next on Curry’s list of achievements is to surpass Ray Allen’s record of 2,973 career three point shots made. Already with over 1,900 made, it isn’t a matter of if he will beat that record...it is a matter of when he will beat that record.

Honorable Mention: I suppose for honorable mention I could have chosen Reggie MIller or Ray Allen, the best three point shooters of the 90s and 2000s respectively. I could have chosen Steve Kerr who holds the record for the highest career three-point percentage at 45%. Instead I have given the honorable mention to another Golden State Warrior, the Real MVP Kevin Durant. While Durant is not considered an elite three-point shooter in an NBA with Stephen Curry his overall ability to shoot the ball is top notch. His amazing field goal percentage has led him to be the NBA scoring leader on four different occasions (2010-2012 and 2014) and has placed him in the elite 50-40-90 Club (shooting percentage above 50% for field goals, 40% for three point shots and 90% for free throws). Additionally, Durant is known to be one of the most athletic players in the league in the same manner that Midorima of the Miracle Generation is one of the most athletic.

 Athleticism means the ability to jump...and block shots. Looks like Curry can't do everything Midorima can...

Athleticism means the ability to jump...and block shots. Looks like Curry can't do everything Midorima can...

Thanks everyone for reading the article. Part 2 of Kuroko’s Basketball: The Miracle Generation and their NBA Counterparts will come at a later date...in which I read more Kuroko’s Basketball manga and watch more Kuroko’s Basketball anime to learn more about the remaining members of the Miracle Generation!

The Top 10 Best-selling TokyoPop Manga Series - #5 through #1

The Top 10 Best-selling TokyoPop Manga Series - #5 through #1