NHL vs. NBA: Who’s the last man left standing?

Dan O'Shea

For years, we’ve been enamored by the abilities of NHL and NBA stars. Those who hit the hardwood dazzle everyone with their freakish athletic ability. People who appreciate grit, toughness, and whatever other words that you could use to essentially describe John Kuhn fawn over the courage of hockey players. We always love them separately, but whenever they’re compared, it’s World War III. So now we ask, who would win in a fight, the average hockey player, or the average basketball player?

If you’re a hockey fan, you’ve probably already gotten yourself jacked up into a fit of rage looking up YouTube videos of players losing teeth while you rage on reddit under the name of “Sidney_Crosby_Wears_Jorts” If you’re a basketball fan, you’re probably already trying to figure out how to spell Antetokounmpo to talk about what an alien he is. It’s a debate that never seems to be spearheaded without bias, due to how loyal the fanbases are. But we’re just here to discuss the facts.

It truly depends on what kind of fighter you’re more afraid to throw hands with. If you’re somebody who admires that one nutjob who cracks a bottle over his head before the fight even begins just to get the juices flowing, you’d appreciate hockey players. On the other hand, if you’re the kind of person who cowers at the idea and feeling the haymaker from somebody built like a 6’6 brick shithouse land on your jaw, then you’d go in the direction of the NBA.

Instead of going by reputation alone, let’s channel our inner Dana White and let’s go to the tale of the tape. According to data taken from HockeyReference.com that ranges from 1918-2015, the current average hockey player stands in at 6’0.9 feet and a clean 200 lbs. That’s not exactly a little boy you’re catching hands from.

Let’s look at the other corner before we consider the glove dropping side of this argument as the winner. According to data compiled by Fansided, the average size of draft prospects for each position goes as follows: point guards are 6’2.2, shooting guards are nearly 6’5, small forwards are 6’7.1, power forwards at 6’9.2, and centers finish up at 6’10.9. If you take up the average there, that’s 6’6.8 inches tall. I don’t care if you literally eat nails without any milk for breakfast you have a jaw made of the same material they make trains out of, if somebody is towering six inches over you with an equally impressive reach, you’re already at an absurd disadvantage.

Even though there’s clearly an advantage in the size of these NBA behemoths of men, let’s look at how these players are perceived. NBA players spend the entire game complaining about fouls while they put on acting performances that would make Tom Hanks look like he was an actor in a junior high school play. Hockey players are known for literally breaking bones and staying in games.

That’s not even an over exaggeration. Hockey players aren’t just known for dropping the mitts and skating around each other tugging on jerseys and throwing punches until somebody hits the ice. They stand in front of pucks whizzing towards them on a nightly basis. Not every basketball player is soft and plenty take and dish out bruising plays on the regular, but it’s a different kind of pain. Wear and tear is a little bit different than broken bones. Plus, just look at what players like tough guy Draymond Green do.

 

It’s hard to tell if Draymond was lightly hit in the nose or if someone cracked him upside the head with a hammer and we all just seemed not to notice. You can’t go through a series without seeing an NBA player flop. It’s the nature of the game, and certainly hurts the reputations of these finely tuned athletic machines.

Green is the perfect subject. Not only because he’s famously known as someone who drops to the ground at the sign of someone breathing heavily near him, but because his height is nearly identical to the size of the average NBA player. If you’d like, you could go with His Airness Michael Jordan or Kobe. Picture them fighting someone like Connor McDavid, who stands at 6’1 and 200 lbs. Who do you pick then? Of course it’s difficult choosing the average person to compare it to. There will be players tougher than both Green and McDavid, and weaker.

Not every player faints at the thought of contact, and not every hockey player is the world eating tough guy that you think they are. It all comes down to size. This isn’t a situation where you’re in an octagon. It’s a common bar or street fight. You don’t sit around wondering where the person is from, how they’re raised, and how much of a hit they can take. All throughout time, you pick the biggest man in the fight. It’s that simple.

There’s a reason why David vs. Goliath is still considered an upset when David takes down the giant. Yes, hockey players have courage and grit and all that. They’re still going against giants.

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