The Sporting Equivalency: Leonardo DiCaprio

"Kobe? Natch." Getty Images

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Leonardo DiCaprio turns 34 today. We were a little surprised by this, because when you consider his body of work, you'd assume he's a smidge closer to 40. Say what you will about Leo—the haters do exist—but you know that you secretly loved him even back on Growing Pains. At 19, he was nominated for an Oscar for What's Eating Gilbert Grape (classic movie) and a few years later, he was the male lead in the highest-grossing flick of all-time. We decided to turn The Sporting Equivalency to the man. For the most part, we'll ignore Body of Lies.

Leonardo DiCaprio's MLB Equivalent: Ryan Howard

Logic is pretty simple: Howard has gone from "the hungry kid with talent" (remember when his productivity in the minors basically meant the Phillies had to jettison Jim Thome?) to "the superstar MVP and World champion" within a matter of years. Leo: in 1991, he was in Critters 3; by 1993 he was in This Boy's Life (massively underrated movie) and by 1997, he was in Titanic. As for the fact that the Phillies' 1B strikes out a whole lot, well, there is always Body of Lies.

Leonardo DiCaprio's NBA Equivalent: Kobe Bryant

We were a little reluctant to make this call, then we decided: it has to be a Laker. Leo is always courtside with his bros like Tobey Maguire and Lukas Haas (their convos: "So, your career really took off, eh?"). Then we read this, indicating that apparently Kobe and Leo are friends. As for Kobe being the most consistent player in the NBA night-in and night-out, we'd probably liken him to Will Smith from a box-office standpoint. However, since he did rise from hungry kid (he was on our first cover) to multi-time champion and best player in the league (cue the devil's advocates: "LeBron!"), we think Leo is a worthy equivalent as well.

Leonardo DiCaprio's NFL Equivalent: Eli Manning

We really wanted to go Tom Brady here, so we could make a few unfunny Gisele jokes. (Read this.) Then we thought about it some more and Eli seemed a much better pick. You know the whole argument that Leo's career as a "legitimate actor" has benefited from working with Martin Scorcese so many times already? (The argument is actually weak, since What's Eating Gilbert Grape was directed by Lasse Hallstrom, and Leo is amazing in that.) Well, Eli struggled at times in his early career, but got into a nice disciplined system with an underrated offensive coordinator (Kevin Gilbride) and started to thrive. Dude could win back-to-back Super Bowls this season. That's kinda like being in Titanic, no?

Leonardo DiCaprio's College Football Equivalent: John Parker Wilson

We were thinking Graham Harrell here, since he's a legitimate candidate to scream out "I'm king of the world!" at any given moment. Here are the drawbacks: (a) for the beginning of Harrell's career, the biggest knock on him was "system quarterback;" you can't say the same about Leo, who actually took a diverse slate of roles and (b) we think Harrell loses to Oklahoma on the 22nd, ending the dream. Leo's dream is alive, seeing as how he's in five movies in 2009 and is battling Will Smith and Brad Pitt for the lead in 2011's Captain America flick. So why Wilson? Well, they kinda look alike (vaguely). And honestly, how is Wilson not king of the world right now? Generally average QB put in a situation with amazing coach, does what he needs to do to keep No. 1 ranking in football-obsessed state? We're not saying he's ending up with girls like Gisele and Bar in Rammer Hammer country, but we don't think he's lonely and despondent, Basketball Diaries-style, that often either.

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