by Geoff Roberts
Lee Priest – Allen Iverson
This is the best comparison of them all, bar none. In fact, it was the similarity of these two athletes which sparked the idea for this entire piece. The parallels between Lee Priest and Allen Iverson are downright spooky, and I’m not merely referring to the fact that they are both covered in tattoos from head to toe. Starting with the most obvious one, which is excessive natural talent. Lee is widely regarded as one of the most genetically gifted human beings ever in regards to what it takes to be a great bodybuilder. Allen Iverson was equally gifted for the world of athletics. As people may or may not know, not only has Iverson always been a basketball prodigy, but he was also the best high school football player in the state of Virginia, where he played several positions on both offense as well as defense. No small feat. There is little doubt that Iverson could have also been a professional football player, had he decided to go that route. Lee on the other hand, looked like a top NPC bodybuilder by the time he was fifteen years old, and was able to place top eight in the world using a mere fraction of the drugs that most of his competitors were using.
Speaking of their competitors, both Lee and Allen are regarded as potentially the greatest giant killers their sports have ever seen. Iverson was six feet tall on a good day and weighed in at a paltry 160 pounds. Despite his adversaries averaging 6’8” and 230 pounds, Iverson was able to score over forty points per game a record number of times as a rookie, carry a lackluster team to the NBA finals, and become the league scoring champion two times. Lee’s size story is nearly a mirror imagine of Allen’s. Lee was 5’5” and 205 pounds, competing against men who were usually around 5’10” and 245 pounds. This size disadvantage did not stop Lee from winning several professional titles, as well as placing top seven in the world at the Mr. Olympia on four separate occasions, including two sixth place finishes and one fifth place finish.
Now we come to the more unique similarities between these two trend setting athletes. Allen and Lee lived life on their own terms. They did not censor themselves and were never worried about being politically correct. While this attitude may have hindered both of their careers, it made them who they were and earned them countless fans around the world. Priest and Iverson both had their careers cut short by, for lack of a better term, bullshit, as well. In Lee’s case, it was the organization he competed in banning him for several different reasons, and in Iversons case it was the media doing everything in their power to see Iverson behind bars. Ironically, during all of this nonsense, both of them went to compete in a different federation/league for a brief time. Reaching even deeper into their parallels, Allen and Lee both garnered false rumors of being completely broke, homeless, you name it, after they stopped competing. Despite all of the bad blood and press surrounding these two athletes, Iverson was recently inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame, while Lee was given the distinction of having the best arms in bodybuilding history, via a panel comprised of highly respected industry experts.
Jay Cutler – Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk and Jay were a couple of politically correct work horses who used these attributes to wreak havoc on their opponents. Both men share the distinction of having been the very best in the world for several years. They did not reign supreme for years on end, but they were also not one hit wonders, not by any stretch. Dirk is very high on the all time points scored list, and Jay has one of the highest Olympia placing averages of all time. The other similarity here is a mild lack of respect for how good these guys were. People often seem surprised when they look back at what either of these guys managed to accomplish in their sport.
Kai Greene – Dennis Rodman
I’ll leave this one alone. Does anything really need to be said?
Melvin Anthony – Jason Williams
Marvelous Melvin Anthony and White Chocolate have a few obvious things in common. The most glaring being the level of entertainment they provided the fans with. In a sport as boring as bodybuilding, Melvin was a godsend. He had some of the most entertaining posing routines of all time, and always kept things fun and interesting at the normally sleep-inducing press conference. J Will was the same way on the court. Jason was one of the few players who was able to successfully bring street ball into the NBA. At the time, few things were as fun to watch in the NBA as Jason Williams half court lobs, no look behind the back passes, and ankle devastating crossovers. These guys also never really fully delivered on their immense talents. While both were very good at what they did, when it came to the very top of their sports, they were merely average, despite possessing certain talents that are very rarely seen.
Shawn Rhoden – Chris Paul
This comparison is partially one of physical appearance. Chris Paul does not look like he could ever be the NBA terror that he is. It is said that he is six feet tall, but I would be surprised if he was not much closer to 5’11’, and he does not appear to be in any kind of real shape. While he is certainly not fat, he is not lean either. Anyone who has seen Shawn Rhoden in the off-season, especially in the past, understands this comparison. In the off-season, Shawn doesn’t look like he could win the North American, but he shows up on stage and smokes 98% of other professional bodybuilders. Then you have how good they are in their respective sports. Both guys have the potential to be the best, but they are generally thought to be around the third or fourth place spot in the world.
Cedric McMillan – Lebron James
Cedric and Lebron are obviously not a very close comparison when it comes to how good they are at their particular sports. Lebron is widely considered the greatest all around player in the world right now, while Cedric is currently the third best bodybuilder on the planet, best case. That said, they do have some obvious similarities, namely their genetic gifts. These guys are not only giants, but they also have the skills/shape to dominate their competition, which is an extremely rare combination, one that can not be taught. Lebron James is 6’8” and 250 pounds with legitimate point guard like skills. Most guys with his level of skill are no taller than 6’4”, which makes him a truly dangerous force on the court. Cedric McMillan stands 6’2”, which is normally a death sentence in bodybuilding, due to that kind of height normally distorting one’s proportions, as well as resulting in lackluster leg development. While Cedric may not have the greatest legs of all time, they are still world class, and the rest of him hangs with or may even beat the greatest physiques on earth.
The other thing these two behemoths shared were unrealistic expectations right out of the blocks, and for good reason. Lebron averaged 20 points per game as a rookie and a kid, at 18 years old, in the NBA. Something the NBA will never see again. People assumed Lebron would end up being the greatest player of all time, hands down. While a case can be made for him being one of the best players ever, most would agree that there has been better players than Lebron. When Cedric turned professional, based on his height and structure, the same sort of expectations that were put on Lebron were also unfairly attached to Cedric. In fact, many likened him to a younger Lee Haney, and believed he would win the Olympia several times. Cedric has not yet fulfilled these lofty expectations, but it would not surprise anyone if he were to win the Mr. Olympia at least one time over the next couple of years.
Big Ramy – Dwight Howard
Many of the same similarities that I pointed out in regards to Cedric and Lebron apply to Ramy and Dwight as well. This one is all about genetic gifts. Bodybuilding has never seen a guy with the size and proportions of Big Ramy, and the NBA has never seen a 6’11” 270 pound man with Dwight Howard’s athleticism. Athleticism which includes a forty-plus inch vertical leap. Something that is completely unheard of at that height. Ramy and Howard have both failed to live up to everyone’s expectations thus far in their careers. While Ramy still has time, Dwight will probably never be the unstoppable force that he probably could have been.
Phil Heath – Steph Curry
These two are currently the very best in the world at what they do, with several guys right on their heels. Steph and Phil are both the very best despite having obvious disadvantages. Disadvantages which on paper, should prevent them from being the best. Ironically, this disadvantage is the same for both guys: a small physical structure. Steph Curry is listed at 6’3” and 185 pounds, which means in real life he is not one atom over 6’2” 180, in a sport dominated by men who are closer to seven feet tall and weigh 240+ pounds. Phil on the other hand is not particularly small from a height and weight standpoint, although he is certainly not huge, but he was cursed with narrow clavicles, which make it far more difficult for him to appear wide onstage. Appearing “narrow” onstage is a massive disadvantage in bodybuilding. These guys have both overcome these physical setbacks with the use of an astronomical amount of raw talent.