From Sneaks to Cleats
If today’s NBA players were flashing it on the NFL gridiron.
by Brett Callahan
Super Bowl being only two days away has put me in the spirit for buffalo wings, mozzarella sticks, baby E-Trade commercials, and a wondering mind that got me thinking, “What if the NBA fielded a professional football team?” These are world-class athletes, and although they may not be in football shape, they certainly could be in a matter of an offseason or two. Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders handled the pigskin and the split-finger, Danny Ainge transitioned from the diamond to the hardwood, but because of scheduling, no NBA’er has ever played in the NFL.
With this in mind, I present my NBA-NFL roster I’d place on the gridiron. The process of selecting a football team is not about simply taking the best players in the NBA and inserting them on the team. In fact, you’ll notice Kevin Garnett, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Paul and a number of All-Stars did not make the team. Despite their supreme athleticism, I feel the following players have a more innate football swagger that warranted selection. Let the debate begin:
|2010 NBA/NFL Team|
|Running Back||Dwyane Wade|
|Tight End||LeBron James|
|Guard||Uno Uno Davis|
|Nose Tackle||DeJuan Blair|
|Outside Linebacker||Andre Iguodala|
|Middle Linebacker||Ron Artest|
|Middle Linebacker||Blake Griffin|
|Outside Linebacker||Gerald Wallace|
|Strong Safety||Shannon Brown|
|Free Safety||Tyreke Evans|
|SPECIAL TEAMS & MANAGEMENT|
|Kick Returner||Brandon Jennings|
I had a tough time selecting Rondo over Kevin Love, who can throw a ball about as far and accurate as anyone in the League, but Rondo has a craftiness and toughness that befits an NFL quarterback. He’s young, knows how to lead a team, and has the precision and shiftiness to buy time to hit his receivers.
Iverson easily could have played collegiate football, quarterbacking his high school team to a state title as the little Answer. Sure the guy’s aging, but Iverson is still the toughest pound for pound dude in the League.
Nate Rob intrigued me here because of his speed, quicks, and size, but Wade’s Olympic performance sealed the deal. He showed a toughness never seen before, and combined with his knack for stopping on a dime while defenders fly by, Wade would be a legit 1,000 yard rusher.
Brockman lays people out in basketball, so he’d be a hell of a lead blocker in the NFL. Kris Humphries and Udonis Haslem also could fit the bill, tough guys who get the job done and have no need for recognition.
Smith is a fiend around the ball already, so putting him out wide with his length and ups is a no-brainer. Ellis is the deep threat here. His speed and scoring ability make me think of a DeSean Jackson type. With a deep threat and a big target, the only other hole to void is the Wes Welker, slot possession receiver. Rose is laterally quick, has amazing leaping ability and could take hits across the middle. Orlando’s Matt Barnes was tough to leave off being that he too was a stellar high school receiver that could have played collegiately.
There’s no debate here. No one in the League would be a better tight end, so just stop.
By far the most fun position to pick. Tackles need to be gigantic and able to protect. Who couldn’t picture Kaman’s thinning blonde hair coming out of the back of a helmet? And who has more fight in him than a guy like Nene who beat cancer?
Hayes is the quick, hard-hitting pulling guard that’ll demolish corners, and Big Baby could use his expressionless look, wide frame, and surprising speed to do the same. Millsap is tough as nails and plays intelligently and could orchestrate assignments for the big boys.
Howard would intercept so many batted balls it’s ridiculous. Together with Okafor’s strength and defensive presence, they would lead the league in sacks. The nose tackle needs to plug the gaps, and Blair is the brick load for the position.
Do I really have to justify Artest at linebacker? The Ray Lewis of the NBA, Artest would rip heads off and be the league leader in distributing concussions. Griffin is ripped, young, and would beat the running backs to hole ala Patrick Willis.
Wallace and Iggy are equally yoked, and are the first guys I thought of when thinking about who could attempt to cover James.
Nasty Nate is the most athletic player under six feet in the NBA, making him a tough cover man capable of returning Devin Hester-esque TDs at any time. Ronnie Price is the unsung hero of this team, and the player I’m sure I’ll get the most flack about. Ask Carlos Boozer how athletic this guy is, and you’ll know why I chose him. He’s an incredible defender, an amazing leaper, and a cerebral player.
Brown is so strong and quick that he’d be perfect for laying out unprotected receivers. Evans’ incredible wing span and ability to strip defenders, make him the easy choice for the quarterback of the defense.
Jennings and Aaron Brooks are the fastest men in the League, but if Brooks was tackled, I’m afraid he’d crumble. Return men need hands, vision, and unmatched speed, all the traits of the outspoken Jennings.
Nash is infatuated with soccer and seems like he’d be good at anything he tried, so strap on the uni-bar helmet and keep the laces out, Dan.
COACH AND OWNERSHIP
Jerry Sloan is mean looking, convincing to referees, and can make the most of out his players (Greg Ostertag was their starting center during their Finals runs may I remind you.) He always has spittle resting in the corner of his mouth just like Bill Cowher, an absolute beast on the sidelines.
Maybe Cuban would be better suited for the XFL (R.I.P.), but regardless, Cuban is the fiery nut just crazy enough to maybe make this a reality one day.
So there it is. Have fun with it, dissect it, throw queso or beer at it, but next time you see Howard swat a ball as high as the top of the backboard, do me a favor, and think about those manhands picking one off at the line and Superman’n into the end zone.
Enjoy the Super Bowl, pull for New Orleans, and don’t be surprised if Darren Sharper wins MVP.