Jeremy Lin, Steve Nash Forging Partnership That Could Alter Lakers’ Season

LOS ANGELES — The Lakers‘ season is going to be a success only if Kobe Bryant delivers redemption.   

And only if a long list of other things happen, too.   

Atop that list may be the only other two Lakers who have been dominant in the league, and the only two who can give this team an identity besides Kobe: Steve Nash, a two-time NBA MVP, and Jeremy Lin, who for three weeks became a phenomenon that transcended the league and the entire sports world.

If they can provide a superior level of point guard play at a time when the Lakers enter the season expected to be quite inferior at that key position, the team will have a foundation.

For all the attention that Byron Scott rightly intends to place on upgrading the team’s defense, that end is not going to be anything special. The Lakers had better be a consistently stellar offensive team if they’re going to beat people, and the only way that happens is if Nash and Lin combine to orchestrate an attack the beautiful way they have before.

Interesting intangibles are at work here, too.

Despite how poorly things have gone for Nash as a Laker, there are those in the organization who would vouch for him as an even better guy than Pau Gasol. If Nash can have success here at the age of 40 after all his injury setbacks, he’s going to appreciate it to the nth degree—and imbue the Lakers’ locker room with a positive energy the team desperately needs if it is to overachieve.

Lin, 26, has been a well-appreciated teammate on his clubs in much the same way, being unassuming despite his outsized fame, truly wanting the best for those around him. Given the ardent interest throughout Southern California in Lin as an Asian-American, Lin having success would turn into its own fireball of momentum for the Lakers to ride.

Nash has long been a strong supporter of Lin, who came to L.A. last summer to take part in Nash’s charity soccer game.

Now teammates, the two already have begun forging a partnership, both working out at the Lakers’ training facility Monday and again Wednesday to get started. The first full-team training-camp workout isn’t until Tuesday.

It’s journalistically irresponsible these days to string together the three words “Nash is healthy,” yet he sort of is. He has shaken the nerve root problem that for a year-and-a-half inevitably zapped him from his back to his knees and prevented him from moving with any freedom.

If Nash’s body holds up this time, a scenario may unfold wherein Bryant might not have the most melodious redemption song of this Lakers season.

Bryant is set to play at least one more season, but Nash is planning for this to be it—and he has been such a nonfactor as a Laker that it’s jarring, but fair, to witness how little spark there is over his impending farewell.

If his body allows, Nash still can be a magical player. In recent pickup games with Lakers teammates, Nash has been pain-free and tossing around that old fairy dust.

He has long since learned to thrive without physical advantages, and him simply doing what he does would change what everyone else does on the Lakers.

For example, Jordan Hill would become a weapon when you combine his putbacks with his one other offensive skill: rolling hard to the hoop the way Dwight Howard refused to do when fleetingly paired with a gimpy Nash. Carlos Boozer is going to settle for jumpers at this point in his career, but he might actually make them via perfect pick-and-pop execution from Nash.

The Lakers remain hesitant to count on Nash, but this much has changed since the offseason began: They are now at least indulging hope when it comes to him.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak went about building this roster almost as if Nash didn’t exist, because the nerve damage hadn’t abated to this extent and everyone knew that Nash could aggravate it just by rolling out of bed any morning.

That threat remains, which is why the Lakers signed journeyman point guard Ronnie Price on Wednesday with Nash, Lin and rookie Jordan Clarkson already on the team. Price, though, is only training-camp insurance as the Lakers see how Nash holds up.

In the Lakers’ ideal world, Nash and Lin would play so well that Scott is forced to play them together, with Bryant, at crunch time—and the coach patches the defense together somehow.

But it’s not unrealistic that Nash carves up defenses and makes Bryant’s life much easier with the starting unit while the coaches try not to overextend either old man. The second unit is where the Lakers envision playing faster and being triggered by Lin storming through the paint to dish—most often to Nick Young and Julius Randle—or finish himself, as he does so well on the drive.

Lin’s best days came under the brightest lights, remember, and he arrives in L.A. without all the pressure that followed him from New York to Houston. While Nash is enjoying a rediscovered physical freedom, Lin stands at his healthiest mentally in a long time—poised to tap back into his love for the game.

The Lakers will need that, and him, to help Nash and Bryant steer the committee of big men Scott will play this season.

Despite no Mike D’Antoni to help space the floor for Nash and Lin, as team icon Magic Johnson would surely attest, the point guard runs the show more than the coach.

The Lakers’ goal is not just to win again.

It is to be the Lakers again.

That means winning with star power.

So when it comes to the surprises the Lakers need sprung this season, this is where it starts, in the backcourt, where two players who have blown fans’ minds before have a chance to do so again.


Kevin Ding is an NBA senior writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.

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Happy Birthday to Shaq and All His Alter Egos

Happy birthday, Shaq!

On this date in 1972, you were born in Newark, N.J. You would eventually blossom into a first-ballot Hall of Famer, one of the most dominant big men of all time (even if you couldn’t quite hit those free throws).

But this isn’t about your MVP or your four NBA titles…for you have always been a man of far more depth. Actor, rapper, Santa Claus impersonator: Shaq Diesel, you’ve done it all.

So let us celebrate your 42nd birthday by remembering the various roles you have assumed over the years. 

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Lakers News: Dwight Howard’s Departure Means L.A. Must Alter Philosophy

After countless reports of contradicting nature, All-Star center Dwight Howard confirmed via his official Twitter page that he has signed a contract to join the Houston Rockets. While countless analysts have debated what this means for Houston and the rest of the Western Conference, there’s one thing we cannot ignore.

The Los Angeles Lakers must alter their philosophy for winning titles after yet another free-agency debacle.

The Lakers are coming off one of the most disappointing seasons in NBA history, possessing a starting lineup laced with Hall of Famers and finishing the regular season at 45-37. Not only did they struggle to maintain a record above .500, but they also were eventually swept out of the first round.

In turn, they established a reputation as one of the biggest busts in league history.

With Howard’s departure, the Lakers are again stuck in a state of disarray, with an abundance of stars and an absence of promise. This is a situation reserved solely for the Lakers, who have mountains of expectations that few teams can compare to.

If this failed experiment has taught us anything, it’s that L.A. needs to build their contender in a different way.


Using the Draft

Free agency will remain a prominent aspect of the Lakers’ strategy—and rightfully so. If there’s any way to find a reliable source of production, it’s by signing a player who has proven capable of handling the NBA grind.

With that being said, the Lakers have one glaring void on their roster—they lack youth to develop and the athleticism to build their defense with.

Howard would have helped in both regards, but D-12 would have been the only player under the age of 32. Currently, that player is 25-year-old Jordan Hill, who has displayed the potential to be a double-double type of player.

Unfortunately, they don’t have much else to hang their hat on—that truth comes down to mismanaging the first round of the NBA draft.

The Lakers haven’t used a first-round draft choice since 2009, when they selected and then traded point guard Toney Douglas to the New York Knicks. They haven’t kept a first-rounder since 2007, when they picked Javaris Crittenton.

If the Lakers hope to win with their current core, or any other group of players they may potentially acquire, holding onto their first-round draft choices and drafting starting-caliber players is the only way to go.


Overvaluing the Lakers’ Name

If the past year has taught us anything about the Los Angeles Lakers, it’s that they overvalue their own name value. While the Lakers do have their reasons for confidence—geographic location and 16 NBA championships, for instance—this is a new era of basketball.

The most powerful draw is the team with the pairing of cap space and the ability to bring in multiple stars.

While the Lakers may have cap space looming in 2014, there is an undeniable sense of uncertainty surrounding their organization. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace will all become free agents, with at least No. 24 in line to receive a massive re-up.

Their ability to draw attention from other stars could hinge upon their willingness to play with a 35-year-old leader.

There may be the perception that the Lakers are immune to dry spells as an organization, but that’s hardly the case. For every period of championship glory has come one in which the Lakers have seen a stunning collapse.

The common theme in each of those recovery periods has been their ability to pair a star prospect via the draft with a top-tier free agent.

The Lakers clearly believe that they can achieve the latter feat, using their name brand as a reason to join the franchise. What they’re ignoring, however, is the ever-important factor of finding the youth they need to create their future with.

By seeing Howard walk, the only hope remaining is that they realize their wrongs and begin utilizing the draft as they’re supposed to.

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Why Kobe Bryant Will Alter Dwight Howard’s Public Image in 2012-13

It’s nearly a yearly occurrence in today’s NBA. Somebody does something to piss of their hometown fans (or soon to be former hometown fans), the rest of the league sympathizes and they instantly become persona non grata in the NBA. 

Fans everywhere will become incredibly disenchanted with the player in question and their public image is shot to hell.

In case anyone out there was still questioning whether or not Dwight Howard was going to fit that bill this season, Dwight Howard’s return to Orlando probably won’t be accompanied by horns blowing and flowers being tossed. Instead he’ll see the roughest homecoming since LeBron James came back to Cleveland for the first time.

One thing that Howard can take advantage of now that he’s moved to L.A. and shares a locker room with the rest of the Lakers is that he’s got a teammate who was once in the same position that he’s in.

Kobe Bryant‘s unpopularity reached a nadir after he was accused of sexual assault back in 2003, leading to a months-long trial that dragged through the 2003-04 season forcing Kobe to go back and forth between Colorado and California during the basketball season.

Thankfully for Howard, his predicament is nowhere near as bad as Kobe’s. He’s facing a public shunning whereas Kobe was facing serious jail time, which would have potentially ended his career far short of what was expected.

Even though the cases are completely different, what Kobe did following the case is going to be what Howard needs to do following his unceremonious departure from Orlando.

Kobe made some drastic changes, from changing his number to almost completely closing himself off from the media. Basically what he did was ignore most outside influences and just played basketball. And you know what? That’s probably the best way to go about repairing a damaged image.

Take a look at how LeBron’s image started to be repaired. It took his first full season with Miami before he realized that the best thing to do was to just forget everything that happened and move on. He tried to address “The Decision” lightly for nearly a year, culminating with the press conference following the loss in the 2011 NBA Finals in which he told his “haters” to buzz off.

While it would make sense that the best thing to do would be to acknowledge the wrong you’ve done, the best thing to do would be to talk about it a few times initially and then move on.

Aside from following the Kobe System, just the presence of Kobe himself should be a bit of a calming effect.

When you look around the league, there are few players as comfortable on the big stage as Kobe Bryant. He may not always get the job done, but he’s never afraid to take the final shot even if he’s got 20,000 rabid fans yelling at him.

That’s what he’s going to help Howard with the most. Not only is this an important part of Howard accepting the boos long enough so they end up turning into cheers, but it’s important for Howard to become the next leader of the Lakers.

Howard has struggled on the big stage before, shooting just 49 percent during his one trip to the Finals. You can’t say he was terrible during that series, but he wasn’t good enough to take control of the Magic and keep them in the series. That’s what the confidence of Kobe Bryant can teach a guy.

Part of preforming well is thinking that you can preform well. Kobe’s presence and a new kind of attitude should help Howard turn into a more confident basketball player, which should help him turn into a more confident person in general.

It’s going to be tough at times, but if he sticks close to Kobe then he’ll be able to reboot his image a quickly as possible.

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Could Rajon Rondo’s Jump-Shot Alter The Course Of NBA History?

But if there is one area of his game that is lacking, it is his jump shot. Rajon Rondo is fantastic at penetrating the basket, and finishing around the basket. But when you start to look at how he does in the realm of outside shooting, it’s pretty weak. Rondo shot 24.7% behind the arc last season which is way behind the rest of the elite starting point guards in the NBA. Just to give you some perspective on where he lies, Derrick Rose shot 31.2% behind the arc, which ranks behind Russell Westbrook, Brandon Jennings, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Devin Harris, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Mario Chalmers, and Chauncey Billups.
Many other point guards that aren’t even remotely considered “elite” shoot with a higher percentage behind the arc than Rajon Rondo does, which speaks to how how bad his jump shot really is. Rondo is considered by many to be the best point guard in the NBA for his amazing ball handling, passing, and overall court leadership skills. Averaging 17.3 points, 11.9 assists, and 6.3 rebounds per game in the 2012 NBA Playoffs, it is hard to find a point guard that is more efficient than Rajon Rondo.

The fact that Rondo is considered by many to be the best point guard in the NBA speaks to how good he is in every other facet of his game, and also can’t help but raise the question: How good would Rajon Rondo be if he actually had a respectable jump-shot?
You could reasonably conclude that his game would be infinitely better than where it is right now, which is a pretty frightening thought. On a more toned down level, it certainly seems reasonable to suggest that if he had a respectable jump shot, the Celtics would be the favorites to win the East.
The Boston Celtics threw the kitchen sink at the Miami Heat and nearly pulled off the upset in the Conference Finals. If Rajon had been able to reliably knock down an 18 foot jump shot and have the legitimate option to score from the perimeter, the Miami Heat would have been finished because it would have done so much more than just give the Celtics another 6-7 points. Miami’s defense would have had to stretch to ensure that Rondo didn’t score from the outside, creating a plethera of problems for the Heat.
First of all, this would make the gap between the Heat and Celtics at point guard about as big as the grand canyon. Mario Chalmers already can’t hold a candle to Rajon Rondo, but at least he shoots a lot better. If Rondo is knocking down threes and outside jumpers, the Miami Heat would be thorougly outclassed at the point guard position. Secondly, this would expose the Miami Heat middle even more than it already has been. If  Rondo is knocking down threes, that causes less double teaming down low and more one on one action down in the paint for Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass. Thirdly, it would allow Rajon to drive and attack the rim even more because defenders couldn’t sag on him or collapse on him as well. With a more stretched out defense, Rondo has more open passing lanes and lanes to attack the rim.  Rondo’s penetrating abilities would be amplified by the fact that defenders wouldn’t be able to play the drive everytime he has the ball, creating better shots for not just himself, but his entire team. Finally, this would undoubtedly make Rajon the best point guard in the NBA and possibly the best player in the entire league.
To answer the question posed in the title of the article “Could Rondo’s Jump-Shot Alter The Course Of NBA History?” the answer to me seems to be a resounding yes. In a world where Rajon Rondo has a jump shot, the Boston Celtics probably have 3-4 championships with their “big four”, which means that LeBron James doesn’t have a title, and that Kobe Bryant is still in search of his 4th ring or maybe even preparing a retirement speech. That immediately would silence all Kobe-Jordan comparisons as well as LeBron-Jordan comparisons.
Not only that, but Rajon not only would be getting ranked ahead of Deron Williams and Chris Paul, but whispers of John Stockton, Isaiah Thomas, and possibly even Magic Johnson would start to be heard. The Boston Celtics would become the golden standard of NBA, not the Heat or the Lakers. With the Miami “Big three” being a failure,  Pat Riley would blow up the Heat, trading Chris Bosh to the Washington Wizards for a bunch of draft picks and John Wall. As for LeBron James, Riley would deal him out of pure disgust and blind-loyalty to Dwyane Wade for winning him a championship ring. LeBron probably finds a way to patch things up with Cleveland, and get traded there for half the team including some really nice draft picks. NBA franchises would think differently about how to build a contending championship team by looking to the draft as the main source of winning instead of buying a bunch of top free agents.
This may sound crazy to suggest that Rajon Rondo’s jump shot holds the key to changing the basektball universe, but if you really think about it, why not? He has everything else going for him. If he gets a jumpshot,  he will have the entire NBA on a string, sitting on a rainbow under a pot of not gold, but championship rings.

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LeBron James: Attempt to Extinguish Bad-Guy Persona Won’t Alter Fan Opinion

LeBron James is trying to win back the hearts of America, and it’s not going to work.

I’m sure all of the conversations he had with corporate $ponser$ this summer centered on rebuilding his image within the American public. Millions of dollars are on the line.

He had a lame apology of sorts for Rachel Nichols and the ESPN cameras, and has been making comments to the effect that he wants to shed the villain portrayal he currently has.

James admitted to falling into the role when asked by USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt:

There’s no villain bone in my body. I became unfocused. I turned into somebody that I’m not. I’m not a villainous person, and I told you that. I started to become unfocused and worried about the wrong things. I’m back to myself.

 Oh really? You’re back to the same player who won two MVPs?

Funny thing is, his first season in Miami was right on par with most of his career. He averaged 26.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and seven assists and played very consistent basketball…until it mattered most. This mirrors the output of most of his career.

What’s never going to change is the fan’s view. Boos will litter every road game of the big-three because they created the blueprint to screw over your small-market franchise to jump on the big-market bandwagon.

James represents what appears to be the era of coddled and babied stars who whine and complain until they get what they want. It’s a dangerous time for the league and we can thank LeBron for it.

More than anything else, in a country that prides itself on loyalty and finishing the job you start, LeBron laughed in everyone’s faces and took the easy way out.

America prides itself on hard work, and while James may work on his game for countless hours behind closed doors, we only see the public decisions he makes. We saw him dancing on stage talking about all the championships he was going to win. “The Decision” was a historic moment in the history of the league and it’s going to take a whole lot more than one year for fans to forget.

LeBron needs to realize this and altered his mentality accordingly. What’s wrong with being a villain? It worked for Kobe and for those old Detroit Pistons teams in the early ’90s.

James wants to have the fairytale script with nothing but smiles. In reality, it’s nothing but angry customers that hate what you stand for.

Embrace it.

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How YouTube Can Alter an NBA Career

If it weren’t for YouTube, Shawn Kemp would still be that dude who got fat during the 1998-1999 lockout and fathered a bunch of kids out of wedlock. As Kelly Dwyer has pointed out, Kemp was actually pretty good once play started 1999; plenty of other athletes have dozens of illegitimate mouths to feed. However, the combination of the two made Kemp into an unfortunate cliche, an object lesson in everything that can go wrong with an NBA star.

Then, five years ago, Kemp mixes started popping up on YouTube. They were culled from NBA-TV rebroadcasts, VHS highlight tapes from the early 1990′s, home recordings saved for years, and naturally, whatever other Kemp-ologists had already posted. They were linked to like the dunks were breaking news, reminding older folks how great Kemp had been, and showing a younger generation the man behind the punch line. 

That’s how Shawn Kemp, Prodigal Son of the New Jack Nineties, was rehabilitated. Kemp, before the fall, was a national freakin’ treasure, and deserves to be remembered that way—not to mention, a member of the forgotten powerhouse Sonics team, and with Gary Payton, part of the most mesmerizing alley-oop tandem ever.

As much as we like to mock athletes, we would probably rather revel in their most stunning accomplishments. Kemp, within a matter of months, saw his reputation undergo an abrupt shift, all because of a fairly new video hosting platform and some very dedicated fans. It was synergy at its best; Kemp’s career was one of the first that enterprising fans went after for wholesale excavation, developing a whole new use for YouTube and changing the role it could play in athlete’s brands. Punchlines had been much easier to transmit than video footage. YouTube changed that equation.

So, who today is most likely to get the Shawn Kemp treatment a few years down the road? My vote is for Vince Carter, whose disappointing career has only a handful of the competitive peaks that Kemp braved. Carter essentially trailed off sometime in New Jersey, and had to deal with frequent accusations—often warranted—of spinelessness, laziness and general refusal to perform up to his full potential. But those first few years with Toronto, and then every once in a blue moon, he was a one-of-a-kind aerial artist, a high-flying, inventive swingman who regularly made fans fall out of their seats, or off of their couches. 

When Carter retires, which will be soon, there will be some flustered post-mortems. Eventually, though, we’ll all turn to the tape. Here’s where it gets tricky, though. Kemp had been a legitimately great player; the highlights served only the jumpstart that recognition. Carter’s legacy will likely never be resolved. Hopefully, though, once his playing days are over, he can at last find peace. Vince himself seems like he will be just fine, but what this really means is that we can oooh and aaah over his best moves without a scintilla of guilt or rancor. It won’t make him into the Next Jordan, or even an admirable athlete, but YouTube in this case provides a haven.

For present-day players, YouTube can be something of a hindrance, or at least a mixed blessing. Every night, every dunk will appear on YouTube, almost as soon as it’s executed. As compared with the detective work required to, say, put together Phi Slama Jama Clyde Drexler mixes, today YouTube’s community makes it too easy to see—and glorify—it all.

A guy like Will Bynum, who is a decent player and frequently emphatic dunker, can be elevated into a full-blown cult hero. That’s the reason anybody remembers Smush Parker at this point.

Before YouTube, the standard for dunks was John Starks in the playoffs. These days, it’s something as random as Corey Brewer jamming on Derek Fisher. 

For bigger stars, there may be some liability there. Blake Griffin has every one of his dunks immortalized, prematurely. He’s played one season, and yet the number of extended play mixes devoted to him far exceeds that of many Hall of Famers. It’s not fair, but it’s also not all that good for Griffin. Sure, it made him super-famous overnight, in ways that traditional media would never have allowed (especially for a Clippers player). But it also sets a verdict on him, and defines him as a player, well before it’s time to do so. Griffin is known for his dunks, but there’s a lot more than that to his game. Will these mixes, and clips, evolve, or are they premature records?

It seems crazy to say so, but it’s possible that Blake Griffin, whose young career has been helped by YouTube like no one else, might now have more to lose from it than to gain.

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Michael Beasley: Ballet Lessons Do Nothing To Alter Bad-Boy Image

Michael Beasley, basketball player, pot smoker and…ballet dancer?

The Minnesota Timberwolves forward has been playing in pickup leagues across the world as he waits out the lockout like everyone else. Now his main focus is on improving an image that, quite frankly, is incredibly horrible.

He has decided to hire a PR firm that will re-shape his image. Check out the statement from the firm:

He has also taken up ballet to transform his body and hired a public- relations agency to improve his image.

“I want everyone to know that I’m not this monster that they perceive,” he said. “I’m a really nice guy….”

He has played with childhood pal Durant and Wall in exhibition games across the country and also has incorporated elements of yoga, karate and, yes, ballet into summer workouts intended to make his body stronger, more limber and help ensure a long, productive career.

Ballet to transform your body eh?

That’s a new one for me.

I’m not sure if he’s trying to show people the softer side, or really thinks prancing around can alter his body but either way I’m not buying it.

With his track record, you might as well embrace the bad-boy image. What’s the point in hiding it?

I’m not calling Beasley a menace or a bad boy on the same level of Dennis Rodman, but in the day and age of squeaky-clean images—Beasley sticks out like an albino in Phoenix.

Street ball fights and getting busted for weed sounds like the rap sheet of most 22-year-old kids.

He simply wasn’t mature enough for life in the NBA, and his supreme talent has taken a hit because of it. The No. 2 pick in the 2008 draft, Beasley quickly played his way out of Miami because of immaturity and the unwillingness to listen.

Last season with the T-Wolves, he was a top-five scorer in the league after the first month. Then he began to stop playing hard every night and the massive amounts of shots being hoisted didn’t equate to points. He ended up being one of the least efficient players in the league because of it.

Now he has turned to ballet.

Instead of twirling around in a tutu trying to find himself, what he really needs to do is simple:

Listen to his coaches and bring it every night.

That’s something not even the best P.R. firm can control. It’s all on Beasley.

Having said that, footage of Beasley’s ballet endeavors would be gut-bustlingly hilarious. 


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Delonte West’s Other Alter Ego “Butterscotch”

“Chocolate drop and marshmallow equals smores…I got bars!”
That’s right, the gibberish above means that Delonte West is back in the news! West’s new alter ego Butterscotch, a smooth cat from the south, speaks about his beef with rival pimp, Chocolate Drop. Apparently Chocolate Drop is long time buddy and comedian Kevin Harts doppelgänger. Delonte seems to be doing his best to keep himself occupied and out of trouble during the extended lockout. It’s exhausting meeting all of his different personalities.

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12 NBA Superstars and Their Superhero Alter Egos

So, I got to thinking. What if NBA players were superheroes? Who would they be? 

I just got to thinking about this because of the whole “He’s a Robin but he’s a Batman. Then I got to thinking, there are a lot more superheroes out there other than Batman and Robin, and well…Superman.

So I started considering some stars and some Superheroes and putting them together, and these are the results.

Bear in mind that these are for entertainment purposes only. Any occurrences of actually outing the true identity of a superhero is purely accidental.

The order is completely random and the stars chosen were based solely on being the best similarity to the Superhero in question. Any taking serious of this article will be met with severe mockery.   

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