Arguably, every NBA player is an elite athlete. It is probably the most athletic of all sports, but which player is more athletic than the rest?
This ranking of NBA athletes is based on athletic ability for the individual's size. This combines a player's leaping ability, speed, explosiveness, agility, strength, and body control.
For all of these individuals, the game comes naturally to them. Along with technique and skill, their athleticism makes it much easier for them to succeed on the court.
There are so many tremendous players who could be chosen for this distinction. Narrowing this list was extremely difficult, but these are my top 10 athletes currently playing in the league.
Honorable Mention: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers. Even after missing the entire 2009-2010 season due to leg surgery, Blake Griffin can easily be considered as one of the NBA's top athletes.
On opening night, ESPN analyst Hubie Brown characterized Griffin by exclaiming that he can “run like a deer” and “is a blur.” At 6'10", Blake has one of the most explosive leaps in the league and consistently plays above the rim.
He is a dominant rebounder, has extreme toughness and strength, and possesses rare speed and agility in the open floor.
Shannon Brown, Los Angeles Lakers. Shannon Brown is an extraordinary athlete best known for his highlight dunks in transition, but he is just as capable of rising up and throwing down in the half-court as well.
Brown's large wingspan allows him to block the passing lanes and rack up steals on the defensive end.
This explosive jumping ability and quickness on both ends of the floor are what really separate Shannon Brown from most other NBA players
Standing at seven-feet tall, JaVale McGee possesses some of the most incredible athletic tools for a player of his stature.
With a 7'6" wingspan, McGee is an exceptional shot blocker and vastly improving rebounder. He can run the floor extremely well and has great agility on the fast break.
JaVale can jump out of the gym when soaring for alley-oops and reach above almost any player in the league on the boards.
Andre Iguodala is a versatile wingman and one of the most dynamic offensive players in the NBA.
Iguodala has elite explosiveness, speed in the open floor and tremendous leaping ability.
Famous for his thundering dunks, Andre is very talented defensively as well. He is blessed with great lateral quickness, which helped him average at least 1.6 steals per game every year of his career.
Gerald Wallace dominates with his unbelievable jumping ability, and he can take over a game with his superior agility, speed and motor.
Wallace is one of the best defenders in the league today. He will not be out-hustled on the defensive end, and he has an uncanny ability to accumulate steals and blocked shots for a player of his size.
Russell Westbrook has probably the most explosive first step in basketball and he can literally catapult towards the rim.
Every night it’s another coast-to-coast dunk for Westbrook, who has become a defensive playmaker and momentum-changing finisher.
He is a phenomenal athlete who has great length with a huge 6' " wingspan, which is a large contributor to his averaging over two steals per contest this season. As he continues to get stronger, it will only become easier for Westbrook to score at the rim over the league's best big men.
A breath-taking athlete with terrific size for a point guard at 6'3", Derrick Rose is a dazzling dunker with blinding speed.
On the offensive end, Rose is an excellent ball-handler with a deadly crossover, making him very tough to contain one-on-one. He is deadly on the fast break due to his great passing ability, cat-like quickness, and strength.
Rose is a powerful leaper and he has the strength to go into traffic and dunk on bigger players.
Defensively, Rose's 6'8" wingspan allows him to be relentless with quick hands and length. Rose has also become a great rebounder due to his size, tenacity and 40-inch vertical jump.
Size aside, Nate Robinson may be one of the best athletes of all-time. Listed at a mere 5'8", Robinson can jump out of the gym. His vertical is 43.5 inches and he is pound-for-pound one of the NBA's strongest players.
Any player that can fly to the rim like Robinson can, and block the shots of bigs such as Yao Ming and Shaquille O'Neal, has to be considered amongst the league's most athletic players.
Not only can he soar with the best of them, but Robinson is extremely quick to the basket and he has a nasty crossover. Just ask José Calderón.
Rudy Gay's natural physical tools stack up among the very best in the NBA. Gay is 6'8", but he has an absolutely freakish 7'3" wingspan and 40.5-inch vertical.
Gay is an elite run-and-jump athlete who finishes with authority above the rim.
This unbelievable high-flying ability has given him a reputation as an instant highlight waiting to happen.
Gay is also an excellent slasher to the hoop because of his fantastic first step, and he can run the floor very well.
Like Rudy Gay, Josh Smith is a run-and-jump type of player.
For his size, Smith has remarkable length. He has a seven-foot wingspan while he stands at 6'8" and possesses an outstanding vertical leap.
Smith has exceptional dunking ability and has many highlight-reel slams to his name. Smith's most incredible attributes, however, are displayed on the defensive end.
Arguably one of the best defenders in the NBA, Smith has the uncanny ability to run down plays and prevent transition baskets.
Always one of the league leaders in blocks, Smith seems to swat the ball away from the hoop with ease.
Smith is also extremely adept at darting into passing lanes for deflections in the half-court setting, and he has an impressive dedication to crashing the boards that isn’t common among wing players.
Dwight Howard is truly a scary athlete for his size. Dwight is touted by many as the most explosive leaper—for his build—in the world.
Possessing a 7'4.5" wingspan, unparalleled strength, and phenomenal physical gifts, Howard is likely the most imposing force in the NBA today.
Howard can push around just about anyone on the block, yet he is still incredibly quick and mobile for his size.
Howard dunks everything around the rim and he completely dominates the glass on both ends of the floor.
Defensively, Dwight can easily keep opponents off the block and protect the rim with his length and incredible athleticism. He is a strong shot-blocker and he is great at rotating to the weak side and sending shots into the stands.
Where can you even start when describing LeBron James. Love him or hate him, he is an absolute freak of an athlete and a mind-boggling physical specimen.
At 6'8", 250 lbs, he has a wingspan of over seven feet and he has the highest vertical leap recorded to date, a ridiculous 44 inches.
He has the high-flying ability of Josh Smith combined with the speed of a Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook in the open court.
LeBron has, by far, the best overall combination of size, extreme strength, speed, power, agility, and leaping ability in the league. James does things at his size and weight that nobody should be able to do.
Once he gets moving in the open court he is practically impossible to stop.
On the defensive end, LeBron racks up about two steals per contest and he is famous for running down offensive players from behind on the fast break and blocking their shots.
There are many great candidates for most athletic in the NBA, so I would love to hear what other people think.