Posted January 22, 2014

The All-Gridiron Team: NBA players who would dominate on the football field

Ben Golliver, The Point Forward All-Stars

Nate Robinson

Nate Robinson, who played DB at Washington, also plays DB on The All-Gridiron Team. (Otto Gruele Jr. Getty Images)

Defense

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

68 comments
MichaelKessler1
MichaelKessler1

dwayne wade for quarterback! the accuracy on the full court passses...

Will_Money12
Will_Money12

Dude... You nailed the defensive secondary. Nice job. Here's an add-on: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as a nickel back.

Udaho
Udaho

LoL!! The only thing that comes to my mind is that I see LeBron flopping before he gets tackled.

cdactor8
cdactor8

Who wrote this article anyway?  Try getting the height and weight of the players right.  Seriously...I expect more from SI.

cdactor8
cdactor8

Lance Stephenson for QB.


6'5" 230lbs (ideal QB size)

Tough, huge hands, passing ability, speed, agility, vision, etc.  


There is not a better player, with the body and athletic skills, to play QB currently in the NBA than Lance Stephenson.

JonathanD
JonathanD

6'8", 265 lbs, 4.6 40, 46" vertical, great hands, great IQ.


No way that guy wouldn't dominate at TE or WR.  Could be fascinating at DE too - if Dion Jordan (6'6", 260 lbs, 4.55 40, 32" vertical, converted to DE from WR) could be the 3rd pick in the NFL draft, how coveted would a guy like Lebron be there?

ReginaldLiger
ReginaldLiger

Dwyane Wade should be the quarterback. How many home run passes has he thrown to Lebron. Outside of that this would be one hell of a team! 

MHerve
MHerve

This is just a ridiculous article.  I wonder which NFLers would be good at curling...  I wonder which NHLers would make great chefs...  

ZackDegnan
ZackDegnan

Calvin Johnson has a strong case for one of the best athletes of this time. He runs a 4.3 40 lebron runs a 4.7 Lebron has vertical over him but he is also 3 inches taller. Calvin Johnson still does have a 43 inch vertical. I don't know why people think football is all about athleticism anyways. HE still could not run routes, he could not brace hits as soon as he caught it (alligator arms) and he doesn't have the technique to be a tight end. He would also be an awful blocker. Their is so much technique that goes with being a blocker it's ridiculous. Stick to basketball lebron.

RaySeva
RaySeva

I'd like to see Paul George, Kawhi Leonard or John Wall go over the middle....and have Earl Thomas sprinting at full speed towards them.


I'd PAY to see Dwight Howard try to block Nmdamukong Suh.

a254050
a254050

Every NFL defense has 3 or 4 guys who could run with him and be more physical. (Most outside LBs and safeties.)

RescuedfromESPN
RescuedfromESPN

A few of the great TEs of our time came over from basketball, such as Gronk, Jimmy Graham, and Gates. Lebron would be a great TE with his athleticism, and versatility, and could only imagine what he could do in the red zone. 

bluntz4al
bluntz4al

This is one of the worst articles on SI ever. i skimmed through it for the purpose of not wasting to much time. and all of this is just an opinon. i am pretty sure if there was actual research some of the NBA guys played football at some point and could have done a better job at placing players in different positions.

JoeBellmore
JoeBellmore

This is one of the most useless articles I have the displeasure of reading. SI writers must be pretty bored of the Super Bowl or something...

Fleeb
Fleeb

It' possible this will be the dumbest article on SI all year, but it's too soon to tell. Definitely a contender.

bobinpowell
bobinpowell

Clearly, some SI writers snort Smarties.  Equally clearly, it's not helping.

Silence Dogood
Silence Dogood

I don't see Lebron blocking as a Tight End effectively in the NFL.  Also, that Oline would get owned by any Dline in the NFL.

Baconpizza
Baconpizza

Lebron's size and athleticism would translate, but I doubt he'd want to catch seam passes or go over the middle. 

David15
David15

Did SI just hire a bunch of people from ESPN? I've noticed a lot of ridiculously pointless articles on here recently. Its like someone  completely forgot a deadline and had to throw something together in an hour.

gfs4417
gfs4417

No MJ??? Akeem Ojajuaon???

Octavio
Octavio

Wow, you can tell it's the lull before the Superbowl, huh?

fortworthelite
fortworthelite

LeBron is one of the greatest athletes of all-time. He would be terrific in the NFL. The basketball to football route has been taken many times. I don't think the opposite route has been. See HOFer Rayfield Right, Julius Thomas and Texas A&M's Mike Evans who played one year of HS football.

KevinAustin
KevinAustin

Lebron at tight end? Please. He hates the physical play. 

jayjay23
jayjay23

Jimmy Butler or Gerald Green in place of Paul George.
Kemba Walker or Monta Ellis instead of John Wall
Ty Lawson, Eric Bledsoe, or Will Bynum are the RBs

Get Blake Griffin off the list, put Faried in his place

Kenyon Martin, Jeff Adrien, Robert Sacre could be considered.
And no way you don't put Chuck Hayes on the O-line.  Great feet, stout.

Joe R2
Joe R2

Imagine LeBron going down the middle to make a tough catch with linebackers and safeties breathing down his neck.  Can you say alligator arms?


Then again, LeBron would draw so many "defenseless receiver" penalties with all his flopping that he could be very useful for an offense...

Joe R2
Joe R2

Any excuse to put LeBron on the front page....  SI is becoming ESPN...

J Diddy
J Diddy

Very few NBA players would be tough enough mentally for the kind of abuse they'd get (and have to dish out) in the NFL at the non-QB positions. Lebron complains every time he gets hand checked, and there's no one with his size and speed combination in his sport. Every NFL defense has 3 or 4 guys who could run with him and be more physical. (Most outside LBs and safeties.)


LBJ is a bull in a pasture full of cows. Put him in a pasture full of other bulls and he wouldn't be as extraordinary. 


There are tough NBA players, and they're the ones who could crossover. Nate Robinson, Kendrick Perkins, Jo Noah, Bogut (he's on the list), etc. Those are the guys who play basketball with a football mentality. Not Lebron or most of the others on this list. 


Most NBA guys would have to play WR, CB, or QB. Just not mean enough for the other jobs, no matter how much physical ability and size they have. Just like most NFL guys wouldn't have the finesse and body control to play basketball at a high level. Athleticism does not translate universally across sports at the highest levels. (Why Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, etc. are such amazing stories.)

WHO*IS*ESPN
WHO*IS*ESPN

Another reason lebaby would have it rough is you can't FLOP 

WHO*IS*ESPN
WHO*IS*ESPN

Of course the media thinks lebaby would dominate but truth is he'd get his legs broke first game. ZERO chance he'd make it through the middle.  

6marK6
6marK6

These silly and inane stories fail to take into consideration the physical abuse that football entails. Being a great athlete or fast does not mean anything when you are getting the **** knocked out of you on every other down. James would be nothing in the NFL, which is why he plays in the NBA.

jkastar
jkastar

    When Lebron was playing receiver in high school, he broke his hand while grabbing a one-handed TD.  At halftime, with a sure NBA career ahead of him, the coaches were trying to get him to come into the game as a decoy.  Lebron's reply to the coaches, "I'm no decoy."  He wanted to go win.

    Lebron was the top rated receiving recruit in his class.  44" vertical.  Had offers from USC, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and many others, for football.  Last summer he ran a 4.6 40, same as Jerry Rice, and with training for it, he'd prolly be under 4.5.  Lebron's highschool coach, who played in the NFL, said he can throw the football 70 yards.  If undrafted rookie TE Joseph Fauria can catch 3 TDs in one game for the Lions, Lebron certainly could do something special.

     Lebron has the rare athleticism where he has never missed a significant amount of time with injury.  His body is incredibly tough, durable, and mechanically sound, so based off of the evidence at hand, he is one of the few NBA guys that is equipped to handle the physicality of football.  He gets fouled about as hard as anyone in the league, and just about as often as anyone.  

     In the 2007 playoffs, when Detroit had Ben and Rasheed Wallace, they developed the Lebron rules, where they would just attempt to keep fouling him hard, but he relished it and put up his teams last 25 points for a playoff win.  He's a tough dude.  The most physically gifted person on the planet.  

    He'd be fine in the NFL.  MCW, he'd snap like a twig.  Reggie Evans, he couldn't tackle an NFL running back, they'd run around him.  

Outfield1963
Outfield1963

How disrespectful to the NFL players who worked their entire lives to get to where they are. Perhaps these guys "COULD" make it if they paid their dues. To just assume the point is garbage. 

JonathanD
JonathanD

@ZackDegnan You realize how insane it is that Lebron is 3" taller than Calvin Johnson AND having a bigger vertical than him too?   Not to mention that Lebron weighs significantly more than Johnson as well.

As far as "he doesn't have the technique to be a tight end"...what are you basing that on?  Multiple college bball players have converted to become Pro Bowl level tight ends, and Lebron was already getting 1st-tier scholarship offers to play college ball before he quit to concentrate on basketball.

JonathanD
JonathanD

@RaySeva Not all that many plays where the left tackle is isolated against a nose tackle.

Joe R2
Joe R2

@Baconpizza 


He also wouldn't stand a chance blocking any defender over 220 lbs

lacslyer
lacslyer

@fortworthelite The football to basketball route definitely has been taken, Heisman winner Charlie Ward comes to mind.

RobertLewis
RobertLewis

@KevinAustin Don't talk silly - he was an all-star end in high school.  Put him in when you're in the red zone - throw the ball into the end zone 12' in the air - who else is gonna catch it?  TD.

RobertLewis
RobertLewis

@J DiddyCow manure.  NBA players go without pads and play 82+ games per year.  You have no idea how fast LeBron is - "Every NFL defense has 3 or 4 guys who could run with him and be more physical."  Really - every NFL team has corner backs or safeties as fast as LeBron who weigh 260 pounds and are 6'8" tall? Name them.

 Tony Gonzales revolutionized tight end position - and he wasn't 1/4 the athlete LeBron is.

RobertLewis
RobertLewis

@6marK6Really - so just who would guard him in the end zone? John Havlicek, not the athlete James was - almost played for the Brown when they were good.  James would be unstoppable in the red zone.

wsp410
wsp410

@6marK6 he was a top football recruit in hs, would've been great in college as he has proven himself larger and more athletic than others his age. i don't think he'd be jerry rice but i doubt he'd be nothing in the nfl. 

Jesus Hitler
Jesus Hitler

@jkastar This reads like one of those stupid stories people tell about how Tupac got shot and then rolled two blunts, cut 7 records, and skydived off the Empire state building before finally bleeding out.    I'll bet your dad once beat up Hulk Hogan.

virgil.tomlian
virgil.tomlian

@RobertLewis @J Diddy you make a very good point, gonzalez was no where the athlete lebron is and he has the pedigree of being an outstanding receiver in college. plus despite the fact that  i dislike the guy, there is no denying his incredible work ethic and desire to be the best. if anyone was ever going to be dominant in 2 sports today it would be lebron in both football and basketball. 

lacslyer
lacslyer

@RobertLewis @J Diddy  Yet the average life expectancy of NFL players is considerably lower than athletes in other major sports, at least in the US. The pounding the O/D-line, running backs and linebackers take every year is nothing compared to any other sport that comes to mind outside of rugby/Aussie football.

J Diddy
J Diddy

@wsp410 @6marK6 Agree with this coming out of high school. If he'd have gone into football, he could've toughened up and done some damage. No way he could crossover now, however. NBA is one of the softest leagues going. Never thought I'd see the day when college basketball is a more physical version of the sport, but it is.