The NBA Finals have officially ended, and thus, the sole focus of the sports calendar of the “big four” has now shifted to America’s pastime, and to that, the baseball diehards say…

WELCOME TO THE OMNIPRESENT BALLPARK OF ENTERTAINMENT, CASUALS!


We embrace you with open arms as the season is nearly midway through. What the basketball season has that the baseball season does not do as well, though, is the marketing of the faces of their game.

The stars that the NBA creates are so well-branded and promoted that we get all kinds of “barbershop” debates, we fall in love with their distinct styles and personalities, and the event-viewing aspect is as intensified as ever on social media.


That being said, there are still a plethora of superstars who play with that level of personality and flair in baseball, too!

So, in order to better develop the debate fodder now that the slop of NBA superstar debates is over, here are MLB players with some comparable narratives for what has been and will be the 2024 season.


Victor Wembanyama // Elly De La Cruz, Cincinnati Reds Shortstop

Victor Wembanyama came into the league as the “alien” specimen as the 7’4″, 210-pound 20-year-old Frenchman who did something that normal human beings have not been able to do every single night, winning Defensive Player of the Year, blocking shots at the free throw line, dunking standing up, and even dribbling down the court and hitting a pull-up three with the grace of a unicorn. You didn’t watch the Spurs to win a ton of games, but because he’s like a superhero learning his powers at only 20 with the allure of “what is he going to do tonight that I haven’t seen before?”

Elly De La Cruz of the Cincinnati Reds has that same “humans shouldn’t be able to do this” element to him. With the build of an NBA player at 6’5 200, he somehow still has the 4th fastest sprint speed, and every time he merely gets on base, he’s looking to steal it with nearly 40 before the All-Star break. He clobbers the ball at an unbelievable velocity, makes infield assists where the ball may have flames coming off of it afterward, and any time you watch him, he defies what normal 22-year-olds should do. The pure joy that Snoop Dogg, as a guest analyst in the booth for one of his games, got an assist with, “OH NO, HE DIDN’T, OH, YES, HE DID!” is the freakazoid reaction that you get watching Wemby.


LeBron James // Aaron Judge, New York Yankees Outfielder

LeBron is the face of the league. Some have called him corny because he’s shifted into “Dad” mode with his social media, his Space Jam remake, or any of the times he pretends he’s read The Godfather; his greatness and Q-rating in the largest market of basketball are undeniable.

Aaron Judge has the same larger-than-life, “Aye! It’s THE JUDGE!” demeanor about him that’s well-to-do and aw-shucks where he blushes and rarely says or does the wrong thing. Judge and the Yankee Bleacher Creatures wearing literal powdered wigs in the Judge’s jury section could easily be considered cheesy if it weren’t for how terrifying and legitimate his prowess is as a monster, a former AL MVP, and the single-season home run record-winning over the hard to please New York media as the face of the East Coast.


Jayson Tatum // Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers First Baseman

Jayson Tatum just won an NBA championship as a first-team All-NBA player, and NBA media are asking if he’s even the best player on his team simply because he lacks the aura. Tatum is talented in essentially every single category for better or for worse, but there’s never been a “Tatum moment” or sense of “dog” in him that didn’t feel fabricated or part of a successful Celtics system with a ton of surrounding talent.

Freddie Freeman is going to be at or around the top 10 in every single hitting category this year, slapping the ball around and getting on base to a level that’s given him an MVP and the consistency to be considered one of the defining first basemen of this generation.

That being said, he gets lost in the shuffle on a star-studded LA Dodgers team as an old-school guy via free agency. He landed in Los Angeles despite being what we thought would be a “Braves lifer” legacy after an ugly breakup where the fan base sided with Ronald Acuna Jr. over him, chastising him for using eye black and having flair. Freeman is great, despite the fact that you might never look at highlights in the same way that Tatum fights to have charisma on his own team.


Luka Doncic // Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies First Baseman

As a 16-year-old gracing the cover of a Sports Illustrated magazine hailed as the “chosen one” from the very beginning, Harper was the prodigal son who made waves with fire from the very beginning. In a league defined by having “unwritten rules” and the old heads at the top, he was whipping his luscious hair back to leg out a triple, telling reporters, “That’s a clown question, bro,” and leads active players in ejections by a LARGE margin arguing balls and strikes (21 to 9). He is still a two-time MVP that Philly fans would die for after taking his 


Nikola Jokic // Juan Soto, New York Yankees Outfielder

Do you know who is the reigning MVP who has three in the last 4 seasons, a Finals MVP, and is the best player in basketball? Nikola Jokic. He’s 7 feet and 285 pounds of graceful fundamentals. Team play with a personality that some have criticized to be “boring” because he doesn’t give you any noteworthy quotes or puts himself out there aside from going out, getting buckets at a level we’ve never seen before, and wanting to go back to his horses and family in Europe. There’s never been someone who’s been this entertaining by making it look as effort-free as possible.

Juan Soto is the fundamental specialist who makes the entire Yankees lineup better despite being just one cog in the clock. He’s the on-base % king, the leader in walks, and the most steady and intelligent presence at the plate despite being just 25. The over-reactionary New York media could have criticized him by saying, “I don’t know about this Soto guy! He looks to walk rather than actually get a hit!” and ever since he’s been placed on the team, taken the Yankees from a messy organization despite being the premier franchise, and are now the team to beat. The trade for him this offseason was a one-year flier before he hits free agency, but Yankees fans now will probably pay him a blank check to make sure he’s a pinstripe lifer. The walks and on-base aren’t as flashy as a Giancarlo Stanton laser, but the genius team play makes him the Jokic of baseball.


Anthony Edwards // Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore Orioles Shortstop

Anthony Edwards captured our hearts this season with the epitome of being the man with “that dawg in him” during his playoff run, smirking at Kevin Durant and taking the reigning champ Nuggets to a 7-game series win by putting the team on his back. He plays with brute force and wants the spotlight on him in the biggest moments, like a young, adversarial comic book villain, in the best way. He is already being heralded as “the next face of USA Basketball” at just 22 when LeBron, Durant, and Curry are on the way out, and the internationality of the game has risen so rapidly.

He’s also completely aloof as opposed to the “prodigies” of the game who have been educated to eat, breathe, and sleep basketball since the time they could walk. He went to Georgia (not exactly a basketball powerhouse), where he preferred football over basketball growing up. He picked it up because “it looked cool,” and he estimated that he eats around 21 bags of Chester’s Hot Fries per week. He largely runs his social media through a Twitter account for his dog, Anthony Edwards Jr., who is named Anthony Edwards Jr. This man is a myth.

Gunnar Henderson has had the same sort of promising future impact on this era of the Baby Bird Oriole generation, which tanked for years and is now relishing prospects galore as the second-best team in the American League by record. Gunnar, as an MVP candidate with the smoothest home run swing in baseball and a Rookie of the Year Award last year as he vaulted into stardom as a five-tool player, is incredible, given the other promising talent on this Baltimore team to compare him to.

He also has a goofy mustache, walks up to a Gwen Stefani song, and is an obsessive LEGO Star Wars fan competing with Colton Cowser to build the largest sets and had an incredible lightsaber bat for May the Fourth Be With You. This young stud will hit for the cycle off of you, think nothing of it, and post on his Instagram story about the Millennium Falcon he just built.


PHOTO: Factinate.com

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