Sidney Crosby is about to hit another milestone. The Pittsburgh star is now just one point away from the joining the 1,000-point club, and will be looking to hit the mark Thursday when the Penguins host the Jets.
It will be just the latest accomplishment for a player enjoying one of the best stretches in recent hockey history. In the last 12 months, Crosby has won a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe, along with a World Cup and tournament MVP honors. He's leading the NHL in scoring this year and has a good shot at winning his third Hart Trophy as league MVP. And he's not even 30 yet.
It's hard to come up with new ways to praise Crosby. His status as the best player in the game isn't in any serious dispute these days, and even fans of other teams have come to respect him. Telling hockey fans about how great Sidney Crosby is almost seems like a waste of time; at this point, you're preaching to the choir.
But what about everyone else? Most of the people out there aren't diehard hockey fans, and it seems like they should get an opportunity to enjoy Crosby, too. But how? That's trickier, since it's hard to really appreciate somebody you're not familiar with, or may have never even heard of.
So in honor of what will soon be his latest milestone, I figured I'd do my part in helping to spread the Crosby legend. They say the easiest way to learn about a new topic is to compare it to something you already know. So let's do that. Let's reach out to fans of other sports and beyond, as we try to identify the Sidney Crosby of other fields.
The Sidney Crosby of the NBA is: Lebron James.
We might as well start with an easy one. Like Crosby, James was a heavily-hyped phenom before he even made his pro debut. Like Crosby, he was the first overall pick in his draft year. And, like Crosby, he's faced plenty of criticism over the years, both fair and unfair, thanks to the bright spotlight that comes with being the best.
Granted, Crosby's never switched teams, and he's certainly never done it with a televised special like James' unfortunate appearance in "The Decision." But Crosby did have his own shady made-for-TV moment back in 2005, when the league orchestrated a special lottery to determine which team would get to draft him. It's not a perfect comparison, but it's close enough.
Don't overthink it. Lebron is the Crosby of the NBA. Next.
The Sidney Crosby of the NFL is: Hmm. This one's trickier.
If we're talking about the best player, we should be picking a quarterback. But Tom Brady doesn't really work. Neither does going back through history for guys like Joe Montana or John Elway. Peyton Manning is probably the best match we can find here, but it's a stretch.
So I'm going to go in a different direction by narrowing the focus a bit: The Sidney Crosby of NFL wide receivers is Antonio Brown. Crosby may not have his personality or social media skills, but he shares a couple of important characteristics. For one, we get the whole Pittsburgh connection. But they also share a dilemma: Where do they rank among the best at their position?
Both players are probably the best right now. Both have a younger player nipping at their heels for that honor, in Connor McDavid and Odell Beckham Jr. And most importantly, both are facing an almost impossible task of achieving "best ever" honors, because the guy at the top of the list is just too good.
In Brown's case, that's Jerry Rice. In Crosby's, it's Wayne Gretzky. Both were so far beyond anyone else that future generations were just battling for second place. (Also, in this metaphor Randy Moss is Mario Lemieux—record-setting freaks who may have been the most skilled of all time but didn't play long enough to challenge the all-time numbers.)
The Sidney Crosby of MLB is: Bryce Harper.
Again, it's the story of the eagerly anticipated mega-prospect who actually lived up to the hype. Harper hasn't won any titles yet, but we'll give him time since he's only 24.
What might be a more interesting baseball comparison is the one that we seemed like we were going to get...
The Sidney Crosby of MLB was almost: Mark Prior.
Like Crosby, Prior was the top prospect in his draft year, and was already established as among the best in the league by his second season. The sky was the limit.
And then, he got hurt. In Prior's case, it was his arm and shoulder. He'd miss time, come back, and get hurt again. The worst of those came in his fifth season. Despite various comeback attempts, he never pitched in the big leagues again. His career was over.
It's easy to forget this now, but there was a time when Crosby seemed to be following the same path. He missed time due to leg and ankle injuries, but the big one came in his sixth season, when he suffered a concussion at the Winter Classic. He came back too quickly, got hurt again, and was shelved for most of the next year. Another comeback, another concussion, and suddenly NHL fans were left wondering if we were going to see another Mike Bossy or Eric Lindros scenario, in which a brilliant career was cut short by injury.
It didn't happen. Crosby's concussion problems haven't resurfaced, and he's been largely healthy for years. Some fans have probably forgotten that there really was a moment when it felt like his career was hanging by a thread. He was that close to being Mark Prior.
The Sidney Crosby of tennis is: Roger Federer.
Sure, it's an easy call because they're both the best. But the thing about Federer is that we've spent a big chunk of the last decade waiting for him to step aside for the next big name to take over. From Rafael Nadal to Novak Djokovic to any number of other contenders, we keep waiting for somebody to knock him off the throne. And yet even now, he's still going strong.
Crosby's younger, but you can already see the same narrative playing out. For some reason, somebody's always trying to push Crosby off his throne and hand those best player in hockey honors to Jonathan Toews or Drew Doughty or Carey Price or whoever else.
These days, it's McDavid. And make no mistake—McDavid is ridiculous, and will get the crown sooner or later. But not yet. Like Federer, Crosby just keeps chugging along, to the point where some fans are probably starting to take him for granted.
The Sidney Crosby of MMA is: George St. Pierre.
Both are from Eastern Canada. Both have had their careers interrupted by extended absences. Both are heavily marketed despite having no discernible personality. Both seem to like to fight guys named Matt. It works.
And since we've done real fighting, we may as well take the next obvious step.
The Sidney Crosby of pro wrestling is: John Cena.
This is the easiest one of all, right? They're both the biggest name in their "sport." They're both heavily involved with children's charities. They've both won just about everything you can win. They're both often the victims of dastardly attacks.
But the biggest similarity is in how fans view them. Both guys have been relentlessly marketed, to the point where many fans have complained that they're shoved down their throats. That's led to a backlash, in which little kids still love them but jaded grownups find any reason they can to dump all over them. In both cases, that finally seems to be fading as even their critics have to admit that they're better than they're given credit for, but it's out there.
Crosby is basically Cena with a Canadian accent. Let's find out if he can rap.
We've pretty much covered the sports world. But what about all those potential Crosby fans who don't even like sports at all? I feel like we need to expand our reach here.
The Sidney Crosby of food is: Chicken wings.
Why? Because both are awesome. In both cases, if some other team/diner has them, you desperately wish you did, too. Both always have to deal with some bitter contrarian pretending they're not clearly the best. And in both cases, you truly realized just how good they could be in Buffalo.
And there's one more similarity: Both are so good that it's hard to find anything to go with them. Burgers have fries. Steak has potatoes. But wings don't really pair well with anything, because they're so much better than anything else you could put them with.
Crosby's the same. The one knock against him in recent years is that it's tough to find linemates for him. He'll often fail to click with teammates you'd think he'd be perfect for; remember all those dream lines from the Olympics that never happened? You can't just drop anybody next to Crosby and expect it to work. Just like with chicken wings.
Chris Kunitz is celery, is what I'm trying to say.
The Sidney Crosby of 1980s heartthrobs is: David Hasselhoff.
Because like the Hoff, Crosby is good in North America, but pretty much unstoppable internationally.
Look, you knew this premise was going to be get weird when you read it. You've made it this far, don't bail on me now.
Crosby's Penguins win a lot. But Crosby's Team Canadas win pretty much all the time. He was part of the 2005 dream team at the World Juniors that crushed everyone. And he's two-for-two on gold medals at the Olympics. Combine that with the 2016 World Cup, and Crosby-led Team Canadas at best-on-best tournaments have won 16 straight games.
Put him on the World Stage, and Crosby's unstoppable. Maybe not quite "Looking for Freedom" unstoppable, but close.
The Sidney Crosby of comic book movies is: Batman.
The modern-day Chris Nolan version, we mean. In case you're wondering, the Michael Keaton version is Steve Yzerman and the George Clooney version is Patrik Stefan.
Both debuted in 2005. Both peaked around 2008. Both were still good by 2012 but we were all probably expecting too much by that point. Both made a ton of money. Both could probably stand to loosen up and have a bit more fun instead of being so grim and serious all the time. And as best we can tell, Ben Affleck doesn't want to play either of them.
And both taught us an important lesson: You can't force a rivalry, no matter how good it looks on paper. Whether it was Batman vs. Superman or Crosby vs. Ovechkin, sometimes the audience just isn't into it, no matter how much marketing you throw at the whole thing.
Also, both were at their absolute best when a much-maligned villain with awkward mannerisms, a weird grin and a maniacal laugh showed up in town.