10 Athletes Who Are Huge Gamers

Brian Mazique@@UniqueMaziqueCorrespondent IIIFebruary 11, 2016

10 Athletes Who Are Huge Gamers

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    Donald Traill/Associated Press

    Most gamers play sports video games to live out their athletic fantasies in the cyber world. Athletes don't need to live vicariously through a video game, but many of them still enjoy gaming.

    Imagine what it's like to play as yourself in a video game. That has to be pretty awesome. Most of the athletes I've spoken to mention that it's a surreal and memorable moment to see their likeness in a video game.

    Some don't necessarily play traditional sports games. This group enjoys titles that fall under the eSports, fantasy or fighting labels. Whatever genre the athletes favor, this slideshow is dedicated to 10 of the biggest gamers who also make their living as professional athletes.

Xavier Woods

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    Xavier Woods is one of the most entertaining WWE Superstars. He's a decent musician and gifted on the microphone, and though many may sleep on his in-ring skills, Woods is an excellent worker who could thrive if the WWE rekindled the cruiserweight division.

    On top of all that, he loves video games.

    How big of a gamer is he? Dude has his own YouTube channel called UpUpDownDown. Hardcore gamers will know the name is an ode to a famous cheat code in the old Konami classic Contra.

    Woods' channel features live gameplay and commentary from himself and several other WWE Superstars. In October 2014, prior to the release of WWE 2K15, I had an opportunity to speak to Woods about WWE SuperCard, the 2K-produced mobile card game.

    He talked about his affinity for card games such as Magic: The Gathering and others in the genre. If you've ever seen Woods in action on WWE programming, you know his personality is too big to be contained in one format. 

    If you want a giggle, check out UpUpDownDown to see another side of Woods and other members of the WWE roster.

Cam Newton

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    Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers didn't win Super Bowl 50 in real life, but there's a good chance the league MVP could get the job done on the virtual gridiron. He's an avid gamer, and not surprisingly, Newton's specialty is Madden.

    I spoke to him back in 2014 about his love for the game and his involvement with the Gauntlet mode that used his voice.

    Newton talked about the similarities between being a real-life quarterback and playing the role in Madden.

    "It's really a watered-down version," Newton said. I can't play the video game all week and expect to be prepared for a real team on Sunday. I'd be at a disadvantage." However, he did say playing real-life football gives him an edge in Madden.

    "I know what to do to attack certain coverages." Check out the full interview in the video above.

Gordon Hayward

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    Don't ever stereotype competitive gamers—especially not around Utah Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward. He's an avid gamer who enjoys the eSports scene. 

    Hayward took Fox Sports' Colin Cowherd to task for stereotyping gamers as losers who live in their mom's basement. At 6'8", 226 pounds, Hayward is a far cry from the profile Cowherd described. The Butler University alum let him know about it in the video above.

    As Hayward mentioned, "You have to know what you're talking about if you're going to criticize." It was clear that Cowherd had no idea about the gaming industry, eSports or anything else he was criticizing.

    Hayward isn't a guy who just recently jumped on the eSports bandwagon in last year. Back in 2011, he joined an IGN pro league. Because he also bucks the physical stereotype of gamers, he was just the man to put Cowherd in his place.

Damian Lillard

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    When Damian Lillard was named the cover athlete for EA Sports NBA Live 15, it wasn't an example of a popular athlete being associated with a video game despite not being a true gamer. 

    Lillard is a man of many talents and interests. Aside from being one of the best point guards in the NBA, he's also a solid MC (Warning: NSFW language) and a gamer who particularly loves the old Fight Night series. 

    In an interview with Lillard back in 2014, he told me when he visited the EA headquarters he asked the developers to make a new version of the boxing series that hasn't produced a game since 2011. Lillard also discussed the suggestions he made to EA's team for NBA Live

    He suggested an international element to the Rising Stars mode. Lillard thought it would be cool to see your player get an opportunity to play for Team USA if you were excelling in your career. That's not the type of suggestion a casual gamer makes.

    Lillard is the real deal. It's just too bad he was on the cover of a game that finished a distant second behind NBA 2K15 in the battle for top virtual hoops titles.

Demetrious Johnson

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    Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson is the first, current and only UFC men's flyweight champion in history. He's also a massive gamer.

    Oddly enough, Johnson doesn't play a ton of sports games. He's more of a fan of fantasy games that allow him to do things he can't do in real life. Onimusha, The Legend of Zelda and other fantasy titles are among the ones mentioned in his interview above with UFC Magazine.

    Johnson talks about how playing Tekken and other fight games help him pick angles for striking inside the Octagon. Truth be told, Mighty Mouse might be the only guy quick enough to emulate Paul and Martial Law in a real fight.

    Games also serve as an excellent release for Johnson during training. If his thumbs are as fast in gaming as his hands, feet and head are in mixed martial arts, he must be nearly unbeatable on the sticks.

Paul George

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    Paul George is one of the NBA's best players, and according to him, he's the best NBA 2K player in the league. In the video interview above with Rachel DeMita of 2K Sports, George was asked which player gives him the toughest challenge in a game of NBA 2K.

    "To be honest, I really haven't had a lot of challenges. I'm pretty good," he responded. Well then, tell us how you really feel, Paul.

    George doesn't just talk—he actually picks up the sticks to prove his stuff. He and 2K Sports social media manager Ronnie Singh teamed up to take on fans in the MyPark mode. George has no mercy on fans, so if you ever see him online, don't expect him to go easy on you.

Chuck Liddell

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    Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

    "The Iceman" Chuck Liddell might be the most unlikely gamer of everyone on this list. The 46-year-old former UFC light heavyweight champion told me in an interview at the PlayStation Experience in 2014 that he has played the UFC games ever since the license belonged to THQ and was developed by Crave.

    He even remembered that all of the fighters were forced to fight southpaw in the earlier versions. That's legit nerd knowledge for you. Of course, I wouldn't say that within earshot of The Iceman. 

    The original EA Sports UFC game was on display at PSX, but Liddell was busy with interviews so he didn't get a chance to play the game. However, it was clear he was itching to get into a virtual scrap.

    That's a real gamer.

Anthony Davis

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    George says he's the best at NBA 2K in the league, but the New Orleans Pelicans' Anthony Davis might have something to say about that. In an interview back in 2013, the Unibrow told me he owns every version of the game dating back to 2007.

    He even talked about how he uses the game to prepare for upcoming matchups. That's probably just an excuse to get more gaming in before he takes the real court, but whatever the case, his pregame preparation isn't hurting his performance.

    He has the look of a perennial MVP candidate as soon as the Pelicans surround him with some more talent.

    Davis' love for NBA 2K is still going strong, as he was one of three players featured on the cover of NBA 2K16. Plus, he was on hand for 2K's Uncensored panel just before the game's release.

    Fans of the game and NBA would likely be interested in seeing Davis and George go head-to-head to determine which NBA player has the most skills on the sticks.

Eric Berry

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    Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

    Eric Berry of the Kansas City Chiefs is a blessed and amazing dude. The safety is a cancer survivor who made the Pro Bowl seven months after his diagnosis. That's truly remarkable and inspiring.

    Berry is also really good at Madden.

    He won Madden Bowl 22 by defeating Washington tight end Jordan Reed 24-17 in the final. Perhaps the most amazing part about Berry's win was that he got it done playing with the Buffalo Bills!

    Who—outside of Buffalo residents—plays with the Bills?

    You know you're on another level when you can take a non-playoff team to a championship during a competitive gaming tournament. Eric, we have yet another reason to salute you.

Emmanuel Frimpong

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    Warning: Video contains NFSW language.

    It's one thing to be an athlete who proves himself to be the best gamer among other athletes. It's another to be an athlete who is so skilled on the sticks that he or she can beat someone who literally makes their living playing video games.

    That's exactly what FC Ufa's Emmanuel Frimpong did when he defeated well-known FIFA YouTuber KSIOlajidebt aka KSI in FIFA 14. Frimpong didn't just get lucky; he's actually beaten KSI on several occasions

    The video above is just one example.

    The 24-year-old from Ghana isn't just good at FIFA— he also possesses some next-level trash-talking skills. During his and KSI's spirited matches, Frimpong's goal celebrations have to be seen and heard to be believed. 

    Of all the real jocks who play video games, no one has a gaming resume better than Frimpong.