Open Mic: Athletes Delving into Other Sports

Ben WeixlmannSenior Writer IJune 18, 2008

Many star athletes excelled in multiple sports growing up, forced to narrow their focus to one sport when that decision meant a chance at a lucrative contract.

For example, Phoenix Suns All-NBA point guard Steve Nash is an amazing soccer talent. Growing up in South Africa before moving to Canada, Nash had ample opportunity to play on the pitch.

Although he has obviously chosen the basketball-first path, Nash still has that longing to play professional soccer. In the basketball offseason, Nash frequents Major League Soccer (MLS) stadiums to practice with the pros.

Perhaps when Nash's impressive basketball concludes, he will play a role in the management of a premier soccer organization, as he has wanted to do his entire life.

Another basketball star who made headlines not just for his work on the hardwood is LeBron James. James was an all-state performer in football for St. Vincent-St. Mary's High School in Akron, Ohio.

Although his mother was skeptical of his decision to play football in high school as it could have jeopardized his NBA career, James had over 1,000 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns his junior year. As the NBA crept closer, however, James passed on his senior year to focus solely on basketball.

It has been rumored that James had looks from some of the finest football schools in the country, including Ohio State and Miami (FL).

Although I am not sure if he played basketball in high school, I think Detroit Lions wideout Calvin Johnson would be great on the hardwood. Johnson has a 44-inch vertical, with 4.35 speed.

An attribute of football players, especially wide receivers, that bodes well for their success in basketball is their ability to catch. It is so important in basketball to have good handle of the ball and be able to catch passes that aren't always in the best location.

Furthermore, passes get tipped in basketball more so than in football, so having the hands to corral those stray balls is essential. I could see Calvin Johnson being very comparable to Buffalo Bills rookie wide receiver James Hardy, who played one year on the Indiana University basketball squad. The two are both long-armed, can jump, and are all-around athletic.

There are, however, sports that I would suggest don't go well together. For example, I have many-a-time witnessed baseball players attempt to play golf. It simply doesn't work, unless you are Roger Clemens, I suppose. The baseball swing simply does not transfer well to the links. It is a much different motion, and when I see baseball players try their best to swing a driver, it usually is topped.

On the other hand, perhaps the best combination of sports is tennis and golf. This is not so much because of the technique, but rather they are both so-called "country club" sports. I wouldn't hesitate to say that Roger Federer would be an excellent golfer.

Overall, I believe that there are some sports that all-around athletes are able to adapt to well, but there are some that simply don't mesh. Finding that correct combination could be the key to success for creating the first two-sport phenom since Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders tried their hands at football and baseball.

Those two are special cases, but it would be awfully interesting to find an American good enough to play soccer overseas for a European giant, while also being an excellent athlete in one of the major sports in America. That would create quite the dichotomy, now wouldn't it?