I can't deny it—whenever I see a fight break out in the NBA, I take a sort of guilty pleasure in seeing the two fellows involved wildly wrestle or throw fists at each other for the few seconds before the referees pull them apart.
It's not as meaningful as a hockey fight, where the players are actually allowed to throw down in fisticuffs, but it is enjoyable to see the players' emotions get the best of them as they start to wail on their opponent.
Inevitably, whenever I see a fight break out in basketball, it looks sloppy, rushed and downright amateurish, which I think is mostly due to the fact that a fight will only last a few seconds before they are surrounded by 20 guys trying to break it up.
Because of that, I wonder how some of these players would do were they a part of a fight that was actually sanctioned.
So, even though a lot of these players would look lost trying to go toe-to-toe with some of the judo and jiu-jitsu fighters, I have always wished that I could see some of the players that make a living dribbling a basketball end up in a cage in an MMA fight.
With a little training beforehand and some advice from some professionals, here are the guys that I would most like to see step into the cage.
This seems like sort of a strange selection, but hear me out.
Manu Ginobili isn't the most athletic, he isn't the most muscular and he isn't the quickest guy in the NBA, but he is a slippery little fellow.
Ginobili makes a living slipping and sliding around his opponent so he can get to the hole, and he can often do so while drawing contact from three different defenders.
A player with that much body control and that much elusiveness would be hard to take down and keep down in a fight.
He would probably fight like a big, angry, uncoordinated bully, but Andrew Bynum is so big and full of pent-up rage that seeing him unleash in a cage would be phenomenal.
Bynum, at his size, just squaring up and throwing his fists around would be something to see in a boxing ring, but in an MMA fight it would just add another interesting aspect.
I would like to see how long he could stay on his feet, because I'm sure that as soon as his big body hit the ground he would be down for the rest of the round.
The long-limbed, pointy-elbowed Kevin Garnett would not only be entertaining in the cage, he would also be a hoot in the lead-up to the fight.
He has the kind of attitude these days that many fighters have, and would be able to belittle and insult his opponent for months before the fight, and even if he ended up getting laid out in a fight, he would make it entertaining.
Garnett would look for a way to use those deadly elbows to draw some blood on his opponent and put him out before he gets taken down.
If there is one player that I think could last more than a round with a real fighter on pure resiliency alone, that guy is Gerald Wallace.
In the decade that he has been in the NBA, there have been few players to throw their body around as much as Wallace.
He uses his body as an instrument for destruction, boxing out with all his heart and diving for every loose ball that falls on the same side of the court as him.
Wallace may not be able to land too many punches, but I feel like he could take quite a few.
With the way that Josh Smith is built, it seems like he could be a very dangerous fighter if he would have started out training for mixed martial arts rather than basketball.
He has freakishly long Scottie Pippen arms that would give him the reach advantage over any heavyweight that he faced. Plus, the man is so athletic and agile that he would be hard to take down if he had a few years of training under his belt.
Smith looks like he could throw a pretty deadly punch, and if he was trained in some form of martial arts it seems like he could really do some damage on the ground with the amount of leverage he could get from his long frame and muscular body.
Some of the most enjoyable fights I've seen in my days of checking out the UFC and other MMA-related fighting leagues are those where the two fighters have no regard for the rules.
Sure, they aren't the memorable fights that last three or five rounds, and they aren't going to make officials happy, but there's something enjoyable about seeing a guy try to bend every rule possible to put the hurt on his opponent.
Enter Reggie Evans, the dirtiest player in the NBA. Get this fellow on top of you and you better bet that he's going to try and slip a few dirty moves in here and there, possibly even tugging on his opponents boys, just to catch him off guard.
Kenyon Martin has been called a fake tough guy over the years, but I'm not so sure that I buy it.
You don't go around getting into minor scuffles as often as Kenyon Martin does, using his body legally and illegally to get what he wants on the basketball court, if you are a fake tough guy.
Kenyon Martin would be another dirty fighter, but I think he would also end up being a good striker, but once he got taken down, like most of these players, he would be done for.
One of the biggest, scariest guys in the NBA in the past decade is easily Ben Wallace, and regardless of the fact that he has no formal training, I would pay to see him in a cage fight on the spot.
Wallace with or without his afro bobbing menacingly above his head is one of the most intimidating things you can see on the basketball court these days.
He seems like a guy who could take a barrage of punches with little to no problem and dole out some fearsome haymakers that could land a guy on his backside if he put it on the button.
LeBron James is one of the most freakishly built players on this planet, and there's not a reason I wouldn't want to see him cage fighting.
He is impossibly strong and athletic at 250 pounds to a point where he seems like a cartoon. The crazy thing is that at that size, he's not exactly bulky. He's a strong, yet lean 250 pounds.
Besides, if he steps into the cage we either see an entertaining fight or we see him get his butt kicked. That's a win-win situation if I've ever seen one.
Pound-for-pound the strongest player in the NBA, it has been reported that Earl Boykins can bench press 315 pounds. Now, that's an impressive amount of weight for anyone, but for a guy who stands 5'5" and just under 140 pounds, that's unimaginable. That would be like LeBron James benching over 500 pounds.
While pure strength might not be the thing to translate to the cage well, seeing quick little Earl Boykins competing as a bantamweight who can bench more than twice his body weight would be something to see.
Most of the players up to this point have had no real connection to the world of fighting, whether it be boxing, MMA or just some type of martial arts, but really, the most entertaining basketball players to see in a real fight would be the guys that know how to fight. The rest of the guys on the list from this point have had some form of training in the world of fighting.
Al Harrington has taken up MMA training during the lockout, which seems to be a trend among some of the players who are both not interested in going overseas and not participating in various "All-Star games" around the country.
Along with being one of the most storied fighters in the NBA thanks to his role in the Malice at the Palace, Ron Artest could probably also hold his own in a boxing ring, maybe even in a cage.
Artest's father was a boxer when he was a child and he has loved the sport ever since he watched his dad fight as a kid, even getting into a few minor matches of his own.
Ron-Ron could use his crazy to intimidate his opponent and his quick hands to get a flurry of jabs in to wear his man down before he goes in for the knockout punch.
A lot of the players that have turned to MMA training have done so because it helps immensely with footwork and agility, and it's no surprise that it's one of the reasons that Roy Hibbert has made the improvement that he has over the past year or so.
After the 2009 season, Hibbert began working out with an MMA trainer to slim down and tighten up his body in a way to combat the problems he was having earlier in his career.
His ridiculous reach would make it so he could keep his opponent at a distance, but it's hard to say how long he could stay on his feet.
DJ Mbenga is a monster of a man. If you look at his biceps in person you'll get a black eye. He's so chiseled that you can't get to close to him or one of his protruding muscles will cut you open.
But Mbenga wasn't sculpted from clay, it was judo that gave him his intimidating frame and less body fat than a skeleton.
Mbenga has been fighting ever since he was 13, when he picked up judo and had to fight for each belt that he earned. I could totally see Mbenga and his seven-foot frame covered in lean muscle step into the cage and hold his own.
For James Johnson, fighting wasn't something he did randomly throughout his life, but it was sanctioned for most of his childhood.
Johnson's father, Willie, is a sixth-degree black belt kickboxer and his mother is also a black belt. In fact, along with eight of his nine siblings, Johnson is a black belt himself (His 10-year-old sister is just a blue belt. Slacker.)
In fact, Johnson is 20-0 as a kickboxer (as of 2009) and has even competed in an MMA fight, beating 31-year-old Damond Clark in less than 90 seconds.
I'd say if this basketball thing doesn't work out he has at least a shot at being a fighter.
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