Wob: Dame vs. Kyrie and the Guide to Ending Every “Who is Better?” NBA Argument
USA Today Sports. Pictured: Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving
- Damian Lillard crushed the soul of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night, nailing a 37-foot, series-ending 3 as time expired.
- Rob Perez (aka @WorldWideWob) settles the Dame vs. Kyrie debate and lays out the blueprint for solving every "Who is better?" NBA argument.
OK so we’ve all drowned in one of these conversations by choice or not — who’s better: Player X or Player Y?
The sport doesn’t even matter — these debates usually start civil, go nowhere, result in each side repeating themselves, escalating the volume of those same points with the intention of using their aggressiveness to represent themselves as the alpha, and end because someone said something so ludicrous that the court room had to adjourn without any resolution.
Essentially: Twitter. Subjective warfare, where nobody is ever wrong.
I unfortunately found myself on the western front of one of these battles this past weekend after both Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving went off for their respective teams. The question was simple: who is the second best point guard in the NBA behind Steph Curry: Dame or Uncle Drew?
It went as predicted, a lot of GIF shaming, regrettable hypotheses, and Kyrie Game 7 highlights — but a very important settlement was signed by both parties: The framework of how to determine if one NBA player is better than another.
“Who’s better?” is simply an irresponsible question to deliberate; it is vague without any sort of context for what the players are actually better at. To determine the winner, we must investigate 10 different sub-questions, score them, and use the electoral college method versus the popular vote.
Before we continue, I need to disclose where I stand with Kyrie. Buckets are my god. Irving is, pound-for-pound, the most prolific individual finisher I have ever seen play the game. He makes shots that are simply inexplicable and his basketball porn handles turn real NBA games, with mutant athletes twice his size, into an AND 1 mixtape. He is clutch, he fights wars with every dribble, and if my life was on the line and I died if the team did not score that possession, I am nominating Kyrie as my champion 10 times out of 10.
Does that mean he’s “better” than Dame? Let’s write the rules, score it as a boxing fight, and find out.
Who are you starting a franchise with?
This prompt grants you the powers of being the general manager of an expansion team, and you must choose one of two players with whom to start with your team. No, you do not get to take the player’s teammates with him — this is strictly the individual.
This question goes beyond on-court skills: Who do you want as the face of your business? Who can best handle all of the hype and distractions and scrutiny of being the franchise cornerstone?
STATS THAT MATTER: VORP (Value Of Replacement Player), PER (Player Efficiency Rating), TS% (True Shooting Percentage), WS (Win Shares).
Score: Lillard 10, Kyrie 9
Who you going to for the game-winning bucket in Game 7?
Kyrie is responsible for making arguably the most clutch shot in the biggest Finals moment since Michael Jordan vs. Byron Russell in 1998 or Ray Allen in the corner during Game 6.
If there is ever legitimate discussion about changing the logo to a new silhouette, you have to think Irving’s step back is going to be one of the finalists. It was no fluke either, we could create a 50-chapter YouTube video of his clutches moments and that may not be enough to recognize them all — but for as nails as Irving is, he’s not THAT far in front of Dame.
It feels like an eternity ago, but Lillard’s buzzer-beater against the Rockets put him on the map.
It evolved into “Dame Time,” a nickname used to illustrate his nightly performances at the end of the fourth quarter when he takes over games with a bombardment of eye-popping deep threes.
And then on April 23, 2019 — he did this:
It wasn’t some random Hail Mary he forced up because the game was about to end, it was a conscious decision to pull from 37 feet … and not just pull, a god damn STEP BACK with the Defensive Player of the Year frontrunner in his face playing it perfectly.
It is the single greatest series-closing buzzer-beater in NBA history since Michael Jordan’s “The Shot” in 1989 vs. Cleveland.
The circumstances of MJ’s moment will never be conquered, but in terms of shot difficulty and including all the off-the-court drama that lead to this moment — Lillard’s may never be topped during our lifetime. This is not a prisoner of the moment situation, either; it was that tough of a bucket.
Dame has yet to do it in the Finals, like Kyrie, but don’t let that cloud your judgement. The difference between these two in the clutch is now non-existent.
STATS THAT MATTER: FG% in final minutes of games with a margin of equal to or less than 10 points.
SCORE: Kyrie 9, Lillard 9