Why Obi is special
When college scouts and announcers saw Obi Toppin last year the descriptors most used were explosive, athletic, and highlight machine. They often add qualities not often associated together such as efficient, great mechanics, and smart that makes him more than just a finisher. He has skills usually associated with the small forward position with those much-needed power forward skills at his size. His aggressive on-court game is such a difference from his mellow off-court persona.
It is easy to like the kid from Brooklyn who now calls The Garden home. The Knicks hit the jackpot by him being available still at the 8th spot in last month’s draft. The Knicks fanbase has really embraced his style of play which is a stark contrast from Julius Randle.
The style of play of the NBA has changed and Obi Toppin fits the modern game. If you ask most fans they will say he reminds them of several former players. There is a good chance they even mention a former Knick or two. When it comes to NBA comparisons sometimes they are spot on. Other times they are based on superficial physical qualities. Here are what I think of the two most popular Obi Toppin comparisons. Let us first start with the comparison to Amare Stoudamire.
The Amare Stoudamire comparison is the most popular comparison made for Obi Toppin. Most Knicks fans will remember Amare for his short-lived MVP caliber start. Those memories were quickly replaced with a sharp decline. Amare never regained his dominating play due to knee issues. Typically, when players are compared to Amare Stoudamire it’s for a strong inside presence, athleticism, and a lack of an outside shot.
Why do people compare Obi to “Stat”?
Amare Stoudamire was known for doing his best work around the basket. His highlight dunks were a staple on sports highlights his entire career. He was a great rim runner and had elite level athleticism. His highlight dunks do remind people of Obi Toppin. Their similar physical builds will draw comparisons as well.
What doesn’t fit in this comparison?
You need to consider the entire career of Amare Stoudmire. Early in his career, he was mostly an inside player. He expanded his game over time to include a solid mid-range jumper. This differs from Obi Toppin who already has a reputation for scoring ability at all 3 levels. Stoudamire never established a 3-point shot. I think Amare was a much more bruising physical presence than Toppin even though they have similar builds. Obi is only 22 and can grow in strength and size over time.
Amare wasn’t doing this on his own. He had one of the best point guards in the modern era leading him. Steve Nash set him up for many easy buckets. The offense of Mike D’Antoni really took advantage of his athleticism and speed. Stat thrived in D’Antoni’s offensive schemes.
He captured Rookie of the Year honors in 2003. He also was a 6-time All-Star and made 6 All-NBA teams.
It’s hard not to see similarities to Kenyon Martin if you’re looking at his career highlights. The similarities go beyond the eye test. Both these players went to mid-major Ohio schools as well. They also won college player of the year honors 20 years apart. That’s just the beginning of the similarities.
Kenyon Martin even played one of his last seasons with the New York Knicks, so he is fresh in the minds of Knick fans. Kenyon Martin is not a Hall of Famer, but he is beloved among NBA fans of the 2000s. Both of these players missed their opportunity to dominate March Madness. His legacy would probably be loftier if he had never broken his leg just prior to the NCAA tournament. Obi Toppin’s college postseason was canceled due to COVID-19.
Why do people compare Obi to “K-Mart”?
People remember the high flying dunks and fantastic finishes. His athleticism and slight build were one of a kind. He physically didn’t look like he could be a power forward in his era. What he lacked in size he made up with effort and athleticism. Obi Toppin is also an aggressive dunker who has a deceptive amount of athleticism for his size.
What doesn’t fit in this comparison?
Kenyon Martin was a much better defender than Obi Toppin. Even as a Cincinnati Bearcat he was known for defensive highlights just as much as offensive ones. Kenyon Martin’s mindset toward the game was more aggressive and intimidating.
I think Obi has better footwork than Kenyon Martin had at any point in his career. Obi does have similar flashy dunks but has a more polished offensive skill set.
Kenyon Martin technically did shoot 3’s, but they were not a core part of his game. Obi Toppin is unafraid to shoot the 3-point shot even when not left open. In transition Obi Toppin is elusive, Kenyon Martin was usually trying to power through players.
Personnel played a big part in Martin’s quick success in the NBA. Kenyon Martin’s first point guard in the league was Stephon Marbury. The following season started the Jason Kidd era of the New Jersey Nets. We can only hope Obi gets a competent point guard to get him easy buckets soon.
CP of Knicks Fan TV and J. Ellis of The Knick of Time Show Interview Kenyon Martin:
Other Obi Toppin comparisons you also should consider:
Shawn Marion & Shareef Abdur-Rahim
My favorite comparisons for Obi Toppin are Shawn Marion and Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Both of these players had excellent footwork which remind me of Obi Toppin. The balance in Obi’s game reminds me a lot of Shawn Marion (aka “The Matrix”). He was well known for his dunks but had the ability to score at all 3 levels as well. The comparisons end there on offense. On defense, Marion often would be called to guard 3 positions. He never made the all-NBA defensive team, but would get votes. The numbers don’t really tell the story of his impact on the game.
I think Obi Toppin has a higher ceiling being with the Knicks than Marion. Shawn Marion was often the 3rd best player on his teams. His career numbers won’t wow you even though he had great ability. He was a key piece of some of those amazing Amare Stoudamire and Steve Nash teams.
The Shareef comparison may not be as easy for people to see. He never had the flashy dunker reputation Obi Toppin has. I think the other parts of his game are very similar. This is probably the one comparison I hope sticks to Obi Toppin.
We can only hope his skill level reaches Shareef’s trajectory. Knee issues did keep him from reaching his full potential, but the skills were there. His reputation in NBA history is for putting up great numbers on bad NBA teams. He had a knack for drawing fouls and capitalizing from the line.
All the comparisons mentioned have one thing in common. All these teams were lead by great point guards. It’s hard to say if Obi can reach his full potential without a good floor general. Hopefully, that’s something that can be addressed in the near future.
Are there any current or former NBA players you compare to Obi Toppin? What do you think of the most popular Obi Toppin comparisons?