The All-Gridiron Team: NBA players who would dominate on the football field
Defensive End: Blake Griffin (6-10, 251), Clippers
Defensive Tackle: DeMarcus Cousins (6-11, 270) Kings
Defensive Tackle: Kendrick Perkins (6-10, 280), Thunder
Defensive End: Glen Davis (6-9, 289), Magic
The philosophy in constructing the defensive line was similar to the offensive line: sandwich a nasty interior with size/strength/speed on the outside. Perkins, who was the starting center on the NBA’s All-Atrocious Team, might want to seriously consider a cross-sports move. While filling up space, glaring, hacking and shoving don’t make for the ideal NBA big man, you can’t ask for much more from a nose tackle. Perkins is the designated run-stuffer, a lineman with a uniquely ability to draw the attention of two blockers. He should be good for a few unnecessary and painful pile dives on opposing running backs that have already been tackled.
Next to Perkins inside is Cousins, whose persecution complex should serve him well in this role. If we can simply channel all that negative energy usually directed towards referees and media members onto the opposing quarterback, we’re talking about all-pro potential. With the height and length to be alter passes plus the strength and quickness to win one-on-one match-ups, Cousins will ensure that the defensive ends are in a position to make plays.
Griffin, hopefully, will be The Freak, Part Deux. He could conceivably: hurdle an offensive lineman who stays in his stance too long, beat his man around the corner with his explosive first step, bull rush through blocking backs, leap high to obscure a quarterback’s passing windows, and give chase to mobile quarterbacks who get to dancing around outside the pocket. He might struggle defending the run, as he certainly prefers to initiate contact rather than receive it, but the Cousins/Perkins duo and the linebackers behind him combine to provide plenty of protection. Griffin has also shown two other key abilities: he is a magnet for illegal contact and he sells calls better than almost any professional athlete, regardless of sport. Don’t even think about chop-blocking him, or holding him, or punching his helmet when no one is looking. Those yellow hankies will be flying.
Completing the defensive line is Davis, who played defensive end while attending high school in football-mad Louisiana. “Big Baby” has a rare combination of tenacity (he smashed a hotel computer keyboard in the middle of the night) and twinkle-toes (watch him boogey with Tas Melas of The Basketball Jones), meaning he should be able to bully his way through blockers and run hard upfield to keep a quarterback contained. Davis got the nod over other candidates, including Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried, because he has unlimited potential when it comes to sack dance celebrations.
Outside Linebacker: Reggie Evans (6-8, 245), Nets
Middle Linebacker: Metta World Peace (6-6, 244), Knicks
Outside Linebacker: Tyler Hansbrough (6-9, 250), Raptors
The linebacker corps needed both maximum pain tolerance and maximum motor. It’s a bit cliche to cast World Peace in a Ray Lewis role, but the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year seems to possess the technique, instincts and versatility to handle the leading role, even if he’s a half-decade past his prime at 34. The middle linebacker must strike fear in the heart of opponents, and World Peace can still do that. Just ask Hansbrough, who hilariously thought twice about an altercation back in October.
Hansbrough is tireless, strong, fairly stout and he’s almost always bleeding, so there was no way he could be left off this list. The Point Forward envisions him pursuing running backs wide, hauling in the occasional interception by dropping into pass coverage, and approaching the line with total abandon whenever it’s his turn to blitz. Evans occupies the other outside linebacker slot, with much the same job description. The Nets forward was considered for spots on both lines, but ultimately he joined a rugged linebacker group to push its intimidation factor over the top.
Cornerback: Nate Robinson (5-9, 180), Nuggets
Cornerback: Avery Bradley (6-2, 180), Celtics
Free Safety: Tony Allen (6-4, 213), Grizzlies
Strong Safety: Lance Stephenson (6-5, 210), Pacers
The cornerbacks are the two biggest no-brain inclusions on the entire roster. Robinson was a football standout in high school and college at the University of Washington; the explosive leaping ability that made him a three-time Slam Dunk Contest champion comes in handy against taller receivers, and he’s got foot speed to spare. Robinson flirted with the idea of playing football during the 2011 NBA lockout, and the Seahawks even offered him a training camp invite. Publicity stunt or not, his gridiron credentials are unquestioned. Bradley, a dogged on-ball defender with quality footwork and bounce, is perfectly suited as a cover corner. Leave him on an island against the opposing team’s top receiver and you’ll never hear from them all game.
Tony Allen joins the secondary because he is a defensive craftsman; while bringing a physical presence, Allen’s intelligence ultimately lands him this spot. It’s easy to imagine Allen, with his studious attention to detail, getting inside the quarterback’s head and stepping in to intercept passes by beating receivers to the spot. He should be able to offer assistance on run defense while covering up any team mistakes in passing situations. That leaves Stephenson, the defense’s answer to Westbrook in terms of tenacity and ferocity, as the heavy hitter. Few NBA players have the speed, strength and abandon to star in a few “You got jacked up!” highlights like the Pacers guard, who has the right amount of stubbornness and self-confidence to bring the pain.