Just imagine if they'd been English...
While basketball and football may seem like two very different sports, the skills set required to succeed in them are not so far apart. Speed, athleticism, strength, co-ordination and an ability to understand the game is something that all athletes possess but is applied in a different way depending on the requirements of the sport. In this sense it makes it very easy to imagine the talents of one sport’s stars being translated into the requirements of a different sport. I am going to attempt to carry out this exercise with some of basketball’s brightest stars, imagining their talents if they had grown up playing football:
Goalkeeper – Kawhi Leonard:
Leonard is known for his defensive instincts, something that will stand him in good stead in between the sticks. Standing at 6’7 with a wingspan of 7’3, Leonard will fill the goal, while his athleticism will allow him to move that massive frame around with extreme deftness. The biggest hands known to man (9.5 inches in height and 11 inches in width) will also allow for some seriously pinpoint distribution.
Right Back – Patrick Beverly:
Beverly made a name for himself this year as one of the peskiest defenders in the league, giving some of the best ball handlers in the business a troublesome time. This ability should allow Beverly to keep up with some of the trickiest wingers around. While Beverly will not provide us with a huge amount of attacking threat his motor and non-stop effort will allow him to fly up and down the right wing as often as he likes.
Centre Back – LeBron James:
A truly awesome physical specimen, LeBron could probably play at the highest level of several professional sports. At 6’8 , 250 pounds, James’ height and strength would intimidate any centre forward he came up against. When one combines this with his speed (rumoured to have done the 40 yard dash in 4.6 seconds) and his incredible sporting IQ, LeBron would not only be one of the best athletes on any football pitch, he would be able to read and predict the game so as to thwart the most potent of attacking threats. His passing ability should also translate into a role as a ball playing centre back, capable of starting attacks with long diagonal passes. LeBron is also a minority shareholder in Liverpool Football Club, and so should have no problem hypothetically switching sports.
Centre Back – Jimmy Butler:
Alongside LeBron would be a true bruiser. Jimmy Butler is one of the toughest guys in the NBA. This season he finished with the second most minutes per game in the NBA at 43.5. He’s been used with great effectiveness in Tom Thimbodeau’s defensive system and clearly has a knack for the defensive side of the game. While Butler is lacking some of LeBron’s speed, he would make up for it with his strength in the tackle and his aerial ability, together forging an imperious partnership.
Left Back – Mike Conley Jr.:
Conley is one of the best lefties in the league and we’re hoping that the talent in his left hand would be translated into his left foot. Conley Jr. is the point guard in an extremely meagre Memphis Grizzlies defence, as well as being a capable offensive facilitator. This excellent two-way ability makes him our best option at left back.
Centre Midfield – Andre Iduodala:
Iguodala is a midfielder enforcer if you’ve ever seen one ever seen one. At 6’6, 204 pounds, Iguodala will be throwing his weight about with reckless abandon, in a Wilson Palacios type way. A superb defensive player, Iguodala is sufficiently athletic to handle the burdens of centre midfield while his excellent passing ability will allow him to start many attacks with some excellent long range balls. Think Tom Huddlestone but much, much bigger.
Centre Midfield – Chris Paul (C):
The Xavi of the NBA, Chris Paul is undoubtedly the best orchestrator in the game. His 71.5 passes per game and 10.7 assists per game this season in the league’s best offence is reminiscent of some of the diminutive Spaniards best passing feats for Spain or Barcelona. A true on-court leader, Paul is our midfield general and team captain who sets the tone of any game he’s involved in with his talent and experience.
Centre Midfield – Steve Nash:
I’m going to cheat slightly here. Nash simply couldn’t be left out of this team and so we’re going to ignore the fact that he’s currently 40 and pretend we’re talking about the 30 year old Steve Nash instead. As a youngster Nash was a talented footballer player before deciding to concentrate on basketball and one only needs to check out YouTube to see Nash’s footballing ability. Commonly acknowledged as one of the best passing point guards of all time, Nash will be the creative hub of our team, playing slide rule, defence-splitting passes in his sleep. Nash is also a self-confessed Tottenham Hotspur fan.
Right Midfield – John Wall:
As one of the quickest players in the NBA John Wall will have no trouble dropping a shoulder and exploding past opposition left backs with his devastating pace. As one of the league’s best set up men we’re banking on Wall’s passing accuracy on the court translating into an ability to whip the ball into the box.
Left Midfield – Kyrie Irving:
There’s no better ball hander in the NBA. Undoubtedly the trickiest offensive player out there, Irving is capable of embarrassing his opposite man at will. This is the perfect skill set for a winger to have and there’s no reason to think that Irving’s supernatural handle wouldn't translate into some seriously quick feet. Capable of skinning anyone he’s up against, Irving would be a nightmare assignment for any right back.
Striker – Russell Westbrook:
Russell Westbrook would be an absolute monster on the football pitch. The worst type of striker to come up against, Westbrook is aggressive, annoying, athletic and extremely talented. Any centre back would have his hands full if he were playing against Westbrook. When he’s not beating you for pace or in the air then he’s closing you down all day long, forcing you into errors. While Westbrook will occasionally get tunnel vision while in search of a goal, he’ll always produce in big moments.