While watching NBA games, my friends and I almost always end up on the same topic:
Which NBA players would make good NFL players?
With former basketball players like Antonio Gates starring in the NFL and NBA rejects trying out for teams every year, the question more or less asks itself.
Excluding linemen—because there just aren't enough fat guys in the NBA—here is my ultimate NFL lineup of NBA players:
QUARTERBACK: Jason Kidd
Of course I thought about putting Steve Nash here—but give Kidd's size, I had no choice. While Nash has been the NBA's best point guard for the past three years, Kidd was the best for the 10 before that. His leadership and vision and experience make him the best candidate under center.
Backups: Steve Nash; Kirk Hinrich
RUNNING BACK: Chauncey Billups
At 6'3", Billups a little tall for your typical NFL running back, but his combination of speed and power is too rare to pass up. He's known for his physical dominance of other NBA guards, as well as his on-court intelligence and overall craftiness. This would translate well in the NFL, where I'd see him as an Eddie George-type runner.
Backups: Jameer Nelson; Monta Ellis
WIDE RECEIVER: Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker
Dwyane is the Terrell Owens of basketball—he has the height, athleticism, and heart to dominate. Like his commercial says, you can knock him down, but he'll get right back up. Wade is your deep threat, and the guy who'ss going to make that catch on third and long in the fourth quarter. There may be more talented players on your team, but this guy is the heart and soul.
As for Tony—he wasn't the first person to come to mind, but I chose him because he's considered one of the fastest players in the NBA, and his exceptional body control would allow him to make acrobatic catches in traffic.
Kevin Garnett also deserves mention here. While he couldn't be an every-down receiver, he'd be an unstoppable goal-line threat. Imagine throwing a fade to KG in the back of the end zone. With his height and his heart, you know he'd bring that ball down every time.
Backups: Josh Howard, for his freakishly long arms; Richard Hamilton, a possession receiver who'd go over the middle; Matt Barnes, who has publicly said he almost left the NBA to play receiver in the NFL
TIGHT END: LeBron James, Matt Harpring.
LeBron James is the NBA's alpha male (think Vernon Davis in the NFL). At 6'8", and with athleticism to boot, he'd be unstoppable as a tight end. His hands are so big he could probably catch the ball with one while waving hello to a hot girl in the first row, or counting his money, or signing an endorsement contract, or all three.
Harpring is widely considered one of the strongest players in the league—his massive chest is a constant threat to rip his jersey in half. His scoring ability leads me to believe that he has very good hand-eye coordination, and his strength would make him an excellent blocker.
Backups: David Noel, a nobody at UNC who still made an NBA roster, which shows tremendous work ethic and athleticism; Damien Wilkins
NBA players are prima donna wussies. Nobody is man enough to play fullback in the NFL.
LINEBACKERS: Ron Artest, Danny Fortson, Andres Nocioni
Artest is one of the most physically dominant players in the NBA, and his speed would make him an excellent coverage linebacker. He'd also be the first crossover player suspended by Roger Goodell—my guess is he's due for vehicular manslaughter.
Fortson, despite being undersized for a power forward, is one of the better rebounders in the league. He has a nose for the ball, so he'd always be in on the tackle.
Nocioni is my third choice based on his reputation as one of the dirtiest players in the NBA. I envision a Bill Romanowski type—a crazy man who'll hit helmet-first, spit in your face, and rub dirt in your eyes.
Backups: Reggie Evans, Jason Maxiell
CORNERBACKS: Nate Robinson, Allen Iverson
Nate was an obvious choice, considering he played this position at the University of Washington. He's a pitbull who won't back down from anyone.
Iverson almost didn't make the cut because of his age, but he doesn't seem like he's lost a step. He's exceptionally quick, has more heart than anyone, and has lots of tattoos. I feel like NFL cornerbacks must have lots of tattoos.
Backups: Leandro Barbosa, Rajon Rondo, Devin Harris
SAFETY: Ben Gordon, Jarrett Jack.
Gordon is a terrific athlete—he has the quickness to play with the little guys and the strength to hang with the big guys. Plus, he's a crunch-time master, and would be the guy who makes the game-saving pick, or delivers the big hit to cause a receiver to drop a sure catch.
Jack is the other selection based almost entirely on size. At 6'3", 205 pounds, he's ideal. His leadership as a point guard would transfer well to the secondary.
Backups: Raymond Felton; Gilbert Arenas, who's physically ideal, but too soft to start
DEFENSIVE END: Ben Wallace, Eduardo Najera
These were probably my two easiest choices in this whole process. Both guys are animals.
Wallace, despite being undersized at center, constantly kicks butt and out-hustles everyone. And there's just something scary about Najera. He's the first Mexican player in the NBA, and you just don't want to mess with a barrier-breaker.
When you're the first of any kind to do anything, you are a certified badass.
Najera is big, strong, competitive, and determined. He knows what he has to do to get what he wants, and he does it. A hard worker, and perfect team player.
Backups: Paul Millsap; Carlos Boozer, whose chest hair alone makes him manly enough
KICK RETURNER: Earl Boykins
At 5'5" and with a nickname like Earl the Squirrel, you know this guy is a bolt of lightning.
Think Dante Hall—you think you've got him and he just jets the other way, or goes between your legs, or something. Don't forget, Boykins averaged 14.6 points a game last season, which shows fast he really is. It's one thing to be able to get by a defender—it's quite another to create enough space to score consistently. Muggsy Bogues only averaged 14 a game in high school.
Backups: Leandro Barbosa, Allen Iverson
Finally, although I said I wouldn't select linemen, if I had to throw a couple of names out there I'd choose Michael Sweetney, Rafael Araujo, Elton Brand, Darius Songaila, and Eddie Curry. Offensive or defensive lineman, whatever. You'd probably have to pack some pounds on them first, but I think most of them could handle it.
Let the debate begin...