NBA Players Who'd Own You on the SAT

Sean HojnackiFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2013

NBA Players Who'd Own You on the SAT

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    One would likely not employ the phrase "a bastion of knowledge and intellectual exploration" to describe the NBA.

    In fact, some players have given us sufficient evidence from conduct and decision-making to suggest that they don't even know what the letters NBA stand for.

    But then there are the select few who keep large books in their lockers and spend time crafting math riddles and participating in historical reenactments.

    These players know the definition of words like "calumny" and "effulgent," "obsequious" and "solipsistic". These are your typical nerds. 

    Unlike in the 1980s when nerds could only choose between quiet desperation or taking revenge on the hated jocks, the nerdy among us are now accepted instead of bullied. They blend right in.

    But if you look closely, you can find them. Here are 10 NBA players who could school you on any standardized test. 

Manu Ginobili

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    Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs is not your typical Ivy League brainiac. He began playing in the Argentine basketball league when he was 18, but he's blossomed into a bona fide nerd over the years.

    Not only does Ginobili send out some occasional cerebral tweets (), he's also done a TED talk. And he has his own troop of math athletes, aptly titled "Manu's Mathletes." See if you can answer his high school math challenge.

Jeremy Lin

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    Harvard is a great school, but it's not exactly a basketball powerhouse. The last NBA player who was also on the Crimson was Ed Smith back in 1954.

    Until Jeremy Lin, that is.

    He "only" had a 3.1 GPA from Harvard, which Larry Wilmore of The Daily Show called an "Asian F" (via Meredith Blake of the Los Angeles Times). Still, my guess would be that Lin is the smartest player on the court 99 percent of the time.

Tim Duncan

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    Tim Duncan has a degree in psychology from Wake Forest, but his cerebral nature does not end there. He also enjoys Renaissance fairs and playing Dungeons & Dragons (according to ESPN.com).

    Plus, he's wicked smart.

    As he told sportswriter Kevin Kernan for his book, Tim Duncan: Slam Duncan:

    You ever see the movie Good Will Hunting starring Matt Damon? If so, you've got a true psychoanalytical picture of me. I'm just a taller, slightly less hyperactive version of the Damon character in the movie…People expect me to be this shy, quiet type, so I'll ask them outlandish questions in a serious tone.

    How do you like them apples?

Grant Hill

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    Grant Hill is smart enough to have played in 17 NBA seasons. It's no surprise that he double-majored at Duke in history and political science.

    If you need any more evidence of his wisdom, look no further than his article in the New York Times which responded to comments made by Jalen Rose about players from Duke.

    As his mother always says, "You can live without Chaucer and you can live without calculus, but you cannot make it in the wide, wide world without common sense." Really, she says that?

Emeka Okafor

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    Emeka Okafor might just look like a big, dumb jock, but he majored in finance at UConn and graduated in only three years.

    Okafor was born in Houston to parents from Nigeria. They clearly installed a vigorous work ethic in their son, who was named the 2004 Academic All-American of the Year.

    All the one-and-done players could take a page out of Okafor's book. If you want to leave college early, just be smart and take a full course load, plus summer classes and independent studies.

    You'll have your degree before you know it. Four years of college is for idiots. 

Shane Battier

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    Shane Battier not only plays vexing defense; he's also highly intelligent. Battier was named the 2001 Academic All-American of the Year at Duke.

    He majored in religion, so perhaps he made a deal with the devil for his diabolical defense.

    Last year, Battier caused an amusing debate with some fellow alums when he claimed he could beat any NBA players at Jeopardy! When former Blue Devil Mike Dunleavy heard the boast, he took umbrage.

    Even though he did not graduate from Duke, Dunleavy opined that either Grant Hill or himself could take down Battier by phrasing their answers in the form of a question.

    Battier told Chris Tomasson of FOX Sports that he was ready for Dunleavy's challenge: "Michael knows better. I’m a little disappointed in him saying that…I’m ready any time, any place. Tell Dunleavy, tell Grant Hill, you know where to find me. Home or away, I don’t care.’’

    This could be the new competition on All-Star weekend.

Matt Bonner

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    San Antonio Spurs big man Matt Bonner is sometimes known as the "Red Mamba." While no one would confuse Bonner with Kobe Bryant, he's a savvy player that makes solid contributions on the court.

    And he honed that basketball IQ (among other things) at Florida, where he was a two-time Academic All-American of the Year. Defending your academic crown as he did in 2003 is almost more impressive than winning back-to-back national championships as the Gators did a few years later. 

    Bonner is the only player other than Alec Kessler in 1989 and '90 to win Academic All-American of the Year two years in a row.

    And he can ball too. The red-haired Einstein made it to the final round of this year's three-point shootout before being bested by Kyrie Irving. 

Landry Fields

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    Landry Fields went to Stanford. For a nerdy reason that shall never be grasped by any of us lamebrains, Fields and Jeremy Lin had some sort of pregame handshake ritual known only to the hyper-intelligent.

    And Fields wasn't the only NBA-caliber talent with the Cardinal, as he played with twins Brook and Robin Lopez, each enjoying perhaps their finest season as a pro.

    Fields inherited a passion for basketball from his father, Steve, who was a seventh-round draft pick in 1975 but never cracked an NBA roster. Were it not for that drive to make the NBA, Fields would probably be something boring like a lawyer. Or a Modell's sales associate, which he has some amusing practice at.

Cole Aldrich

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    Sacramento Kings center Cole Aldrich looks kind of like a Scandinavian love interest in a romantic comedy, but he's also got brains to burn.

    Aldrich was the 2010 Academic All-American of the Year out of Kansas. In 2008, he big man helped bring the Jayhawks to their first national championship in 20 years.

    While Aldrich declared for the draft before graduating, we won't diminish his academic ability. At least he had Jeremy Lin to exchange intellectual paradoxes and smart-guy handshakes with while he was with the Houston Rockets.

    Since being traded to the Sacramento Kings, he's had a chance to get up close and personal with new teammate DeMarcus Cousins. Perhaps it will give him some materials for a thesis in abnormal psychology which could round out his bachelor's degree.

Tyler Zeller

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    Cleveland Cavaliers center Tyler Zeller looks pale enough that he might spend all his time in the basement watching The Big Bang Theory, but he was also the 2012 Academic All-American of the Year from UNC.

    He grew up in Washington, Indiana, which sounds like you'd have to be pretty smart to figure out. But it's not all brains for Zeller. In 2008, he was named "Mr. Basketball," which goes to the most outstanding high school player in the state of Indiana. 

    It's a pretty auspicious achievement, putting him in the company of Glenn Robinson, Jared Jeffries, Greg Oden and Eric Gordon.

    Unfortunately for Zeller, his brothers Luke and Cody have also received the distinction, so he has no bragging rights at family dinners.