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Looks Like NHL, Plays Like NBA

The greats of lacrosse and basketball employ similar approaches to their craft.

It has been said that the National Lacrosse League “looks like the NHL and plays like the NBA.”

The comparisons to ice hockey are abundant. Five field players and a goalie. Identical playing surface dimensions including complementary boards and glass. The existence of a penalty box, power plays, penalty kills, substituting players on the fly and sudden death overtime to name a few. The similarities are self-evident.

How the NLL plays like the game of hoops has much to do with the presence of a 30-second shot clock and an 8-second midfield marker. Analogous to basketball, NLL action features set plays, pick-and-roll sequences, screens, post-ups and even lacrosse’s version of a dunk. Courtesy of the omnipresent shot clock, scoring is high, with shots on goal occurring at a rapid clip.

Below is a look at some of the interesting parallels that exist when comparing the styles of play of the NBA’s best, and their counterparts from the world’s foremost box lacrosse league.

When operating with the ball, often far away from the hoop/goal, both Stephen Curry and Josh Byrne utilize screens (or the threat of a screen) to create the necessary space to unleash a long-distance scoring attempt. These all-time greats have combined for six league championships and three MVP awards amid years of perfecting this approach.

Courtesy of their musclebound frames, physicality and the unique capability to simultaneously create offense due to the threat of a high percentage shot or pass to the open man, LeBron James and Dhane Smith compete in a comparable manner. Notice how aggressively both superstars drive to the net, often connecting from close range after overpowering a series of defenders or getting open pull-up looks due to the threat of the drive.

Luka Doncic and Jeff Teat represent two of the sports world’s brightest young stars. Both players possess a knack for scoring in bunches thanks to an incredibly creative approach to their respective livelihoods. The Maverick and Black Bear stalwarts can get a shot off from anywhere, no matter how much traffic might be surrounding them. The stat sheet is continually populated through dazzling scoring opportunities from angles and vantage points previously unheard of.

Reporting to work in the very same place of business, Nikola Jokic and Zed Williams exemplify big, physical men with a never-ending array of moves in the post. When the ball is gathered by these Colorado contemporaries, any number of actions may result including a no-look pass or goal. Check out the trickery displayed on a Jokic helper to teammate Aaron Gordon, followed by an astounding behind-the-back score from Williams.

While the focus of this article has involved comparisons of current NBA and NLL players, it is very much worth noting the many equivalences at play when entering a time machine to compare Michael Jordan and John Tavares, the widely observed G.O.A.T’s of these aforementioned sports entities. The best of the best coalesced tenacity, leadership and an uncanny skillset to achieve a combined 10 championships and eight MVP honors. Take note of one of Jordan’s most famous shots and how its’ efforts align with the current Bandits head coach’s approach to the game of lacrosse.