Basketball players have been referred to as the greatest athletes in the world. In the NBA, you see superbly conditioned athletes soar to the basket and throw down rim-rattling dunks or muscle past two or three defenders. Sometimes we marvel so much at these super beings that we, as fans, wonder how pro basketball players would do in another realm, such as pro football.
With the return of the NFL season, I thought it would interesting to put together a football team comprised of current pro basketball players. Who knows? Some of these guys may consider this crazy idea and ditch the round ball in favor of the pigskin. I’m sure NFL general managers would love to have any of these guys on their roster. This concept has been written in the past, but not in the context where each basketball player is assigned a football position. So, without further ado, here is my 25-man, NBA-inspired gridiron gang:
Kevin Durant (6-9, 235)
— If Allen Iverson was still in the Association this would be an easy choice. Iverson was an all-state quarterback in high school and was considered a Michael Vick-type talent in the state of Virginia. But since A.I. is currently out of the NBA the next best option is Kevin Durant. You may wonder why we’re going with KD over skilled passers such as Chris Paul or Rajon Rondo. Durant may not possessed your prototypical quarterback, but he’s a terrific athlete who has shown in the past that he can sling the football. If you recall, during the NBA lockout, Durant flashed his QB skills in a pick-up flag football game. We have visual evidence.
When K.D. asked a bunch of Oklahoma State students in Stillwater, Okla., if he could play in their flag football game because he was bored during the NBA lockout, one of the students asked Durant if he could catch a football. Durant replied, “Are you for real?” Durant may not seem imposing but he’s quick and explosive, and he’s got arms like Mr. Fantastic. The scouting report on Durant would be something like this: has great size to oversee the defense, decent arm strength to get the ball down the field, can elude rushers with his agility, able to make plays when the pocket collapses. Mel Kiper Jr. would have given him a B+ and a second-round grade.
Derrick Rose (6-1, 190)
— Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno said he knew Curt Warner could play running back for him after watching him in a pickup basketball game. Paterno says if you can run, plant, cut, and change direction quickly on the basketball court then you can play running back on the football field. In terms of changing gears without skipping a beat, very few players in the world can match the Chicago Bulls’ superstar guard.
Deron Williams (6-2, 209)
— Williams attended The Colony High School in Texas, and we all know football is king in the state of Texas. D-Will was also a highly touted wrestler as a youngster, so he is no stranger to using leverage and doesn’t shy away from contact. At 209 pounds, Williams could be a very capable tailback in the NFL.
LeBron James (6-8, 255)
— The tight end position is where basketball players seem to have the most success on the football field. Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez were power forwards in college before they were drafted as tight ends in the NFL. LeBron was an all-state wide receiver at St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio, but he would be better suited at tight end because he would be an absolute nightmare to cover for any linebacker or safety. James has phenomenal quickness for a man his size. He could realistically play any position on the field. He’s big enough to play outside linebacker and he’s fast enough to be a safety. He could also play quarterback if needed. As a tight end, LeBron will be able to utilize his 255-pound frame to block and set the edges. And when it’s time to score in the red zone, LeBron and his 44-inch vertical leap could outjump any defensive back in the end zone. LeBron scored 27 touchdowns in two seasons for St. Vincent-St. Mary. “I think LeBron could come in and do better than Antonio Gates,” said former All-Pro NFL receiver Randy Moss. “LeBron James is the athlete that comes around every so often.”
Matt Barnes (6-7, 226)
— The forward was a former all-state wide receiver at Del Campo High School (Calif.) so he can definitely play the position. Barnes is a tough player who doesn’t mind getting dirty. He should be a perfect candidate to go over the middle and catch passes in tight zones. Barnes may not be Hines Ward in terms of blocking, but he’ll irritate the heck out of the opposing defensive backs.
Russell Westbrook (6-3, 190)
–Westbrook is considered one of the fastest players in basketball, and he could certainly give NFL speedster DeSean Jackson a run for his money in the 40-yard dash. The ultra-quick Oklahoma City guard can cover a lot of ground, making him an ideal candidate to be the deep threat on offense. One of Westbrook’s greatest strength is his passion for the game. Football is all about raw emotion, and few NBA players play with more raw emotion than Russ. With Durant playing quarterback on our fantasy squad, it makes sense to have his Oklahoma City teammate to be his primary target.
Darren Collison (6-0, 160)
— The point guard is an absolute blur on the court, able to change gears without losing any speed. Collison can thank his parents for his sprinter’s speed as both were former elite track runners from Guyana. If it were not for his undying devotion to the game of basketball, Collison easily could have been running track instead of running point.
Kobe Bryant (6-6, 205)
— We all know Kobe played soccer when he was in Italy. He follows the sport religiously and has, on more than one occasion, displayed his soccer skills on the pitch. NFL kickers are all soccer-style kickers. Given enough practice and proper technique, Kobe should be able to pick up the nuances of kicking field goals. Kobe is a perfectionist, so if this challenge was presented in front of him he will attack it like a Black Mamba. Because so many football games are won or lost with last-second field goals, who better to put in clutch situations than Kobe Bryant.
Al Horford (6-10, 245)
Kevin Love (6-10, 260)
Kendrick Perkins (6-10, 275)
Zach Randolph (6-9, 260)
Marc Gasol (7-1, 270)
— Blocking in football is similar to setting screens in basketball, except when you use both hands on a screen you’ll get called for a foul. All five of the players mentioned above can all set good picks. But more importantly, each player plays with a bit of a nasty streak, which comes in handy when you need to get a first down on fourth-and-1. Atlanta Hawks center/forward Al Horford could anchor the line at center because he’s likely agile enough to handle the position. We all known center Kendrick Perkins has a nasty streak, and that should translate well on the football field. Power forward Kevin Love, who led the NBA in rebounding in 2010-11, has good size and extremely good hands, which will help him grab an oncoming speed rusher. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are arguably the best center-power forward tandem in the NBA and they certainly don’t mind playing in the trenches. Having these two play on one side of the offensive line bring familiarity, continuity and physicality.
Glen Davis (6-8, 295)
— Can’t think of a better anchor on defensive line than Clippers power forward Glen “Big Baby” Davis, who has always bragged that he could play in the NFL. Who’s gonna argue with a 295-pound man? Not me. But Davis’ claim is not a stretch. He was a terrific two-way football player at University Laboratory High School in Baton Rouge, starring at defensive end, defensive tackle and tailback. Yes, tailback! He scored 15 touchdowns his junior year in high school so he could be a tremendous goal-line back. But Big Baby hung up his cleats for good when he received a basketball scholarship from LSU. Big Baby shows great agility for a 295-pound (ahem, roughly) athlete. Watch:
DeAndre Jordan (6-11, 265)
— DeAndre Jordan is front Texas, and we all know football is king in the state. Jordan has the size and quickness to be a great edge rusher. And in terms of hand-eye coordination, Jordan could give Houston Texans stud J.J. Watt a run for his money.
Dwight Howard (6-11, 265)
— The Orlando Magic all-star center has the size, strength and agility that would make any defensive line coach drool. Howard’s freakish athleticism is suited at defensive end. He can rush the passer and, using his 40-inch vertical leap, bat down any ball that comes his way. He would be absolutely intimidating if he could only wipe that big smile off his face.
Joakim Noah (6-11, 240)
— Joakim Noah could play defensive end because of his great motor. Noah, a former Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA, has earned the reputation as being one of the toughest competitors in basketball. So, all that effort and energy should bode well on the football field.
Metta World Peace (6-7, 250)
— In building a defense, you start with a nasty, punch-you-in-the-mouth middle linebacker. With that in mind, can you name anyone crazier than the player formerly known as Ron Artest? I think not. There is absolutely nothing peaceful about Metta World Peace, who calls his record label TruWarier. He definitely fits the part of a middle backer. Metta, who is currently playing in China, has his sights set on a possible return to the Association.
Kenneth Faried (6-8, 228)
— When your nickname is the Manimal you’re a perfect fit to play outside linebacker. Faried’s greatest asset is his motor. He plays hard on every play and doesn’t shy away from physical play. Those are two absolute necessities to play linebacker. That should translate well on the football field because Faried can play sideline to sideline and be a disruptive force.
Blake Griffin (6-10, 250)
— Few can match Blake Griffin in terms of speed and power. Griffin is a gifted athlete who has earned a reputation as one of basketball’s best dunkers. We won’t need Blake to thrown down dunks. Instead, we’ll need him to throw down quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers.
Nate Robinson (5-8, 200)
— Nate the Great is the only player on this entire list who actually play college football. Robinson played point guard in basketball and cornerback in football for the University of Washington. Robinson is a physically gifted athlete who can run all day and is built like granite. He is such a well-conditioned athlete that he could probably be a good two-way player.
Robinson’s reputation as a football stud didn’t get lost with Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who invited him to Seahawks camp in 2011. Robinson didn’t show up, but he may have to revisit that offer once his basketball career is over.
Tony Allen (6-4, 213)
— Grizzlies guard Tony Allen is one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the NBA and could transition into a solid man-to-man cover corner. In 2005, Allen was charged with aggravated battery stemming from an altercation outside a restaurant in Chicago. Police charges? Battery? Altercation? Sounds like Allen has a little bit of Pacman Jones in him.
Kawhi Leonard (6-7, 230)
— Can you imagine Kawhi playing safety in the NFL? He can run with any receiver. He can lock down any tight end or running back. And he’s got massive hands. If a pass comes his way, you know Kawhi won’t drop a sure interception.
Dwyane Wade (6-4, 220)
— Before he became a full-time hoopster, Wade played wide receiver and defensive back for high school football powerhouse Richards High in Oak Lawn, Ill. Wade has the size to make plays at the line of scrimmage, and he can certainly outjump and outrun a lot of NFL receivers and tight ends. Wade grew up watching the Chicago Bears as a youth so you know he’s familiar with the Monsters of the Midway.
Manu Ginobili (6-6, 205)
— Manu Ginobili is a native of Argentina, so you know he played soccer as a youngster. Manu may arguably be the second-greatest athlete from Argentina, behind only soccer great Lionel Messi. Ginobili can also be a field-goal kicker, but since we already have Kobe at kicker, Manu will have to channel his inner Ray Guy.
There you have it. A 25-man football team comprised of current NBA players. Since Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen owns the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Seahawks, he is the right man to sign the checks for this fantasy football team.
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.