Tatum no Basket
It all comes down to this. The 2022 NBA Finals airs on ABC starting Thursday, June 2, and if you’re a basketball fan like me, tip-off cannot come sooner.
The Boston Celtics face the Golden State Warriors in what should be an all-time great series. For the C’s, it’s their first Finals since 2010—and a chance to win their first championship since 2008. For the Dubs, it’s their sixth Finals appearance in eight years—and a chance at a fourth chip for the Steph, Klay, Draymond dynasty.
Who will win? Who can say. Vegas odds favor GSW ever so slightly, in large part due to the team’s offensive firepower and seasoned NBA Finals experience. That said, they’re going up against arguably the best defense in the league in the Boston Celtics. Oh, and lest I remind you about the emerging dynamic duo that is Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown?
As a Boston fan, my allegiance is clear. And I have absolutely zero shame.
But we’re not here for my favoritism; we’re here for some fun, if silly, anime tie-ins. In honor of the 2022 NBA Finals, here are 12 starters—six Celtics, six Warriors—as iconic anime characters. Ikuzo.
Boston Celtics Starting Lineup as Anime Characters
Marcus Smart (PG) — Erwin Smith (Attack on Titan)
Marcus Smart is the “glue guy” of the Celtics. As a point guard, he’s a boisterous leader and born tactician, smartly (no pun intended) facilitating the team’s offensive capabilities. As a defender, he’s dogged, regularly giving up his body to draw charges against the opposition.
Erwin Smith is cut from the same cloth. The leader of the Survey Corps, he constantly puts his life on the line in pursuit of the mission. Between his eye for strategy, his courage in the face of enemy titans, and his mantra to “Dedicate Your Hearts,” Smith is a guy who can inspire anyone to follow him into battle.
Jaylen Brown (SG) — Roronoa Zoro (One Piece)
If the Boston Celtics were a pirate ship, Jaylen Brown would be the first mate. Jayson Tatum may be top dog (and younger), but that takes nothing away from Brown’s stardom. He’s got three weapons in his arsenal: dunking, defending, and draining threes. Unfortunately, he’s known to lose his handles from time to time—leaving him discombobulated out on the parquet.
Like Brown, Roronoa Zoro knows his place in his crew. As Luffy’s right-hand man, Zoro gets matched up with some of the baddest dudes in One Piece, from Mihawk to Admiral Fujitora. His three-sword style is lethal when the samurai decides to go all in. Though, he has a tendency to get lost in his travels, much to the chagrin of his companions.
Jayson Tatum (SF) — Shoto Todoroki (My Hero Academia)
Jayson Tatum is the ace of the Boston Celtics. A gifted young talent, he’s risen through the NBA through a combination of discipline, perseverance, and sheer willpower. With his explosive ability around the rim, and his icy shooting beyond the arc, Tatum shows a unique mastery of the elements. He also plays with a chip on his shoulder, wishing to live up to his mentor, Kobe.
Shoto Todoroki is a similar prodigy. Despite growing up in an unstable household, Todoroki found motivation in the world’s greatest hero, All Might, who continues to inspire him today. With a quirk that grants him power over both fire and ice, Todoroki is a rare breed at UA—a hero with both lethal offense and impenetrable defense.
Al Horford (PF) — Kakashi Hatake (Naruto)
Al Horford is nothing if not dependable. The oldest player in the Celtics starting lineup, Al brings a steady hand and valuable wisdom to a young, rambunctious squad. Whether he’s knocking down threes, locking people down defensively, or mentoring teammates during timeouts, Al is the father you never knew you had. Oh, and come playoff time, he shows his true powers.
Kakashi Hatake brings that same old-school wisdom to the fore. The leader of Team 7, Kakashi serves as a crucial mentor for Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura as they take on dangerous missions and learn to gel as a unit. While rare to resort to violence, Kakashi won’t hesitate to break out his deadly Sharingan and Chidori to protect his team and village.
Robert Williams III (C) — Shigeo Kageyama (Mob Psycho 100)
Robert Williams is the definition of latent potential. Drafted at 27 in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Texas A&M center was originally slated as a lottery pick, but ended up sliding due to 1) hazy medical records, and 2) doubts about his work ethic. Fast forward to 2022, and he’s put those doubts to rest. While he still has much to learn, and remains a bit of a glass cannon, he makes a huge difference when he’s on the court. Time Lord is the real deal.
Shigeo Kageyama—a.k.a. Mob—shares that potential energy. On the surface, he’s a benign, timid school boy. Set him off, though, and he’s got some crazy psychokinetic power under the hood. Much like Rob, Mob’s gotta be careful. With great power comes great responsibility—go full out for too long, and he can easily put himself at risk.
Grant Williams (Sixth Man) — Batman (Batman Ninja)
Golden State Warriors Starting Lineup as Anime Characters
Stephen Curry (PG) — Jotaro Kujo (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure)
Steph Curry is the immortal player who never seems to die. The 34-year-old Davidson alum is in his 13th NBA season, yet somehow continues to put up MVP-caliber numbers and compete for championships. He’s a fan favorite, a part of a long-running dynasty, and a showman who loves to shoot and shimmy, no matter how ludicrous. Curry can do no wrong.
Jotaro Kujo has virtually the same claim to fame. The third generation in the Joestar family of superheroes, Jotaro has become the face of the JoJo franchise. He shows up in each new season, constantly escapes certain death, and is cool under pressure. He’s extra in every sense—from his saucy poses to his crazy drip. “Yare yare, daze,” indeed.
Klay Thompson (SG) — Shintarō Midorima (Kuroko’s Basketball)
Klay Thompson is one of the greatest three-point shooters of all time. Together with Steph Curry, the so-called “Splash Bros.” make up the best backcourt the NBA’s ever seen. Klay may not be the playmaker that Steph is, but put the ball in his hands, and he’ll hit a shot from anywhere—period.
Shintarō Midorima is equally lethal. An absolute sharpshooter, Midorima has a range that covers the entire court. Literally. He may not have the handles of his fellow Generation of Miracles teammates—namely Aomine, Kise, or Akashi—nor can he enter the Zone like them. But he’s a specialist in what he does best, and that’s shooting and getting swishes.
Andrew Wiggins (SF) — Yugi Muto (Yu-Gi-Oh!)
What an amazing comeback story for Andrew Wiggins. A former No. 1 pick, Wiggins was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2016, where he played six quiet, uneventful seasons. Eventually deemed a draft bust, Wiggins was traded to Golden State in 2020, and eventually found his footing as a reliable roleplayer and lock-down defender. He may never be a superstar, but Wiggins has bounced back to become a hero in his own right.
Yugi Muto mirrors that same coming of age story. Once a relatively weak duelist carried by the prestige of his grandpa’s cards and the power of his Millenium Puzzle, Yugi slowly but surely hones his craft and grows into an A-plus competitor. He even manages to defeat Atem, his alter ego, in a one-vs-one duel—fair and square. A feel-good story for the ages.
Draymond Green (PF) — Kenpachi Zaraki (Bleach)
Draymond Green is the biggest hardass in the NBA. A gifted defender with incredible basketball IQ, he’s also quick to anger, with poor control of his emotions. When he’s upset, he tends to let his hands do the talking—and he gets upset a lot. While he does have a soft side, he never shies away from a battle, even if it earns him a technical from the officials.
Kenpachi Zaraki is captain of the 11th Division of the Gotei 13. A ruthless fighter, Kenpachi once waged war against fellow Soul Reaper Ichigo Kurosaki in a battle to the death. With his massive stature, vicious Zanpakutō, and explosive Bankai, Kenpachi knows no fear, and won’t settle for anything less than absolute victory. Though, he’s a lot calmer around his Division members.
Kevon Looney (C) — Panda (Jujutsu Kaisen)
Kevon Looney may not be quite on the same level as his fellow starters, but he’s still a force to be reckoned with. At 6’9”, he’s got length, making him an absolute rebounding machine during crunch time. Unlike Rob Williams, he’s also durable—an iron man who played all 82 games this past regular season. If nothing else, he’s a steady, reliable, gentle giant…
…Just like Panda from Jujutsu Kaisen. Isn’t he adorable?
Jordan Poole (Sixth Man) — Zenitsu Agatsuma (Demon Slayer)
Jordan Poole is such a surprise. Drafted 28th overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, he’s a seemingly low-tier player who’s been quiet for much of his career—until he decided to pop off. This postseason, he’s been having 30-piece nights on the regular, and is proving a critical spark plug for the Warriors when they need it. Poole’s a sleeper who has come alive during these playoffs.
Zenitsu Agatsuma is a sleeper too—literally. A member of the Demon Slayer Corps, and a giant scaredy cat, Zenitsu hardly intimidates any of the demons he comes across. And yet, when he decides to take a nap and catch some Zs, he turns into a different beast. Day turns to night, left becomes right, and Zenitsu transforms into the baddest dude alive. Seriously, don’t mess with him.
That’s a wrap on our list! Agree with our picks? Disagree? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.