Regardless of the outcome of Game 7 of the NBA Finals, one thing will be certain: when the final buzzer sounds, the Spurs and the Heat will have left everything- headbands included- on the floor. The physical style of play displayed in this series transcends mere basketball. Both teams have sacrificed their bodies as if their lives depended on winning the Larry O’Brien trophy, bringing to mind another fabled tournament where participants subjected themselves to severe physical abuse in order to save their souls: Mortal Kombat. With that thought in mind, let’s look at the key players from the 2013 Finals and their counterparts from the original MK.
Shang Tsung- Ray Allen
Despite being the overall boss of the game, Shang Tsung was not the most difficult fighter to beat. An almost ageless sorcerer who had no soul of his own, Tsung stole the souls of defeated opponents, absorbing their likeness and abilities. Ray Allen is no longer one of the best players on the court, and Kevin Garnett certainly thinks he’s soulless. Yet as he showed at the end of regulation in Game 6, Allen still has the magic to morph into the sharpshooter of old and has the power to change the series.
Goro- Kawhi Leonard
Just like the four-armed Shokan underboss in Mortal Kombat, “Sho-Kawhi” Leonard is a multi-talented player that can do it all. His combination of skills can cause worse headaches than a Goro Grab for opposing teams. Nevertheless, just as Goro must act as a servant for Shang Tsung, Leonard has to play second fiddle to the superstars that surround him. If history is any indication, Leonard will eventually unleash his full potential on the NBA just like Goro reveals his full power by becoming a playable character in MK4.
Kano- Chris Andersen
In an Outworld of unsavory characters, Kano’s half-human, half-cyborg appearance and his manipulative tactics make him one of the most recognizable villains in the Mortal Kombat franchise. Likewise, Andersen’s trademark Mohawk, tattoos, and his half-man, half-bird persona make him literally the most colorful character on the court. The Blinn College alum plays with so much energy, it’s almost as if he’s stealing the heart of his opponents- much like Kano’s infamous fatality. Throw in his checkered past of drug, and it’s easy to ink Birdman as a bad guy regardless of whether he deserves it.
Johnny Cage- Danny Green
Cage is a natural showman, a Hollywood martial artist who lives (and in a later storyline, dies) for the spotlight. A parody of Jean Claude Van Damme, Cage was created to provide comic relief to a gratuitously violent game. Nevertheless, his shadow kick and infamous groin punch make him one of the most memorable MK fighters. Much like Cage, Danny Green was considered a joke when he was with Cleveland and was given the basketball equivalent of a death sentence when he was sent to the NBDL. He was supposed to be an afterthought in a series that featured multiple Big Threes. Ironically, Green has risen to the occasion by hitting big threes and now holds the record for most three-point FGs in a single Finals.
Sonya Blade- Manu Ginobili
Someone has to be the girl, and why not give it to the guy who instigated the NBA’s flopping phenomenon? Every time a player flops, he rises from the floor a little less of a man- regardless of whether he draws the foul or not. Ginobili shares some other characteristics with Sonya Blade- they’re both underrated, they’re both team players (Sonya and Jax), and just like Sonya was the first woman in the MK franchise, Manu paved the way for Argentineans to play in the NBA- but Manu will always be remembered for his role in emasculating the world’s most athletic men.
Liu Kang- Tony Parker
According to the mythos of the franchise, Liu Kang is Mortal Kombat’s MVP. He wasn’t the most popular character, his moves weren’t the most memorable, and he wasn’t too flashy (in the original game, Liu Kang was the only character who featured a non-gruesome fatality), but almost every storyline about the battle between Earthrealm and the Netherrealm states that Liu Kang is humanity’s best hope. Tony Parker may not sell the most jerseys, and he may not have iconic trademark moves like other stars. Nevertheless, Parker is the glue that holds the Spurs together, and just like a Liu Kang flying bicycle kick, he can cause major damage to opposing defenses.
Raiden- Tim Duncan
Raiden is an immortal Elder God. Tim Duncan is an ageless Hall of Famer. Raiden mentors the younger fighters in the tournament. Duncan has been the heart and soul of the Spurs franchise since he was a rookie. Raiden is a fundamentally sound fighter whose simple chop can be more damaging than any special move. Duncan has built his career around solid fundamentals and simple bank shots. Raiden shows little emotion unless he’s shooting electricity from his hands. Tim Duncan shows no emotion unless he’s called for a foul. Nobody ever wants to play as Raiden in Mortal Kombat. Tim Duncan may be the most boring basketball player ever.
Sub-Zero- Dwyane Wade
Perhaps the most recognizable characters in the Mortal Kombat series are the so-called “palette-swapped ninjas.” Dwyane Wade is one of the most famous basketball players in the world, and his career echoes that of Sub-Zero. In the early games, Sub-Zero is one of the most difficult fighters, but as the series progressed, he seems to suffer an identity crisis. (By Mortal Kombat 3, he’s without his trademark mask; later incarnations show him as a cyborg and some sort of Shredder knockoff). Early in his career, Wade was one of the most dangerous scorers in the league, but once the Big Three formed, it seems as if he’s constantly trying to find his real role on the team. Add in his history of injuries, and Wade is certainly deserving of the “Ice Man” as a nickname.
Scorpion- LeBron James
Scorpion is the most iconic figure to come out of the MK series just like LeBron is the most popular player on the planet. Scorpion and Lebron both have some of the coolest moves, but both are constantly being compared to somebody else (Scorpion to Sub-Zero, LeBron to Michael Jordan). Scorpion sells his soul so that he could hunt down his rival, and many would argue that LeBron did the same thing when he went to Miami and tried to ease his quest for multiple championships. Finally, both are at their best when they remove their headwear- Scorpion with that fire-breathing-skull fatality and LeBron with that Game 6 triple-double sans headband.
Reptile- Chris Bosh
In the original Mortal Kombat, Reptile only appears if a player performed a fatality after a double-flawless victory while clouds passed over the moon on the Pit Stage. In the NBA, Chris Bosh shows up not quite as often. Despite the mystery behind him, the fight with Reptile is rather anticlimactic, as his move set just combined those of Scorpion and Sub-Zero. The Legend of Chris Bosh states that he’s an integral part of the Big Three where the reality shows he’s nothing more than a glorified role player. Oh, and then that name “Reptile…” it just seems to fit Bosh perfectly.
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