American Ninja Warrior is a show that is based off of Ninja Warrior in Japan. The successful show is already on its sixth season and is garnering a larger and larger following each and every year. One of the reasons for the show’s success is that it is a unique display of power, agility, and the will. The show is almost like a combination of the Olympics, American Gladiators, and an NBA Combine, all in one.
As the contestants go from one obstacle course to the next, each station has a way of testing every muscle fiber of your being and even the tiniest muscles that you did not know that you had on your body. Some stations require a powerful grip, another station will require upper body strength, another station will require a high vertical leap, and another station will require brute stamina. Regardless of what the station is, the point is that you have to be in an elite category of fitness and agility to be a considered a contestant on American Ninja Warrior. And truth be told, not every professional athlete would succeed on this show. Make no mistake this show is not for amateurs.
However, there are some NBA players that could do quite well on this show. Of course, the one disadvantage that many NBA players have is their size. If you watch some of the best contestants on American Ninja Warrior, many of the contestants are not even 6 feet tall. However, because most NBA players are disproportionately skinny, their extra wingspan may play in their favor. Obviously, you don’t want a Shaquille O’Neal type of ninja (even though he thinks he is one) and the Glen Davis type who are far too heavy to support their own weight. A more ideal candidate would be someone that is tall, lanky, in addition to possessing a decent amount of upper body strength. And the NBA happens to have a ton of these types of players.
So, without further ado, here is a list of the top-10 players in the NBA that could potentially win American Ninja Warrior if they were competing in the challenge.
10 Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard is one of the taller players on this top ten list. Leonard stands at 6’7”, but what makes his physique even more remarkable is his wingspan of 7’2.” Additionally, he may have the largest hands in the NBA. While Leonard’s wingspan and giant hands hurt him in some courses like the Vertical Limit where the ledge is less than a fingernail in thickness, his wingspan does come in handy with some of the obstacle courses in American Ninja Warrior. The advantage that Leonard has is that his wingspan is so wide that he could easily skip some of the grips that shorter contestants with smaller wingspans would need to utilize to get across a course. This would save Leonard an incredible amount of energy and time and at his young age, he is just hitting his prime in terms of fitness and strength, which makes his life stage the optimum to succeed on this show.
9 Rajon Rondo
Rondo is an athlete, period. He was a star football player in high school, is an NBA Champion, but couldn’t you see Rondo in a ninja costume too? The way that Rondo plays basketball, he is as ninja-like as it gets on the basketball court. He is quick, he is agile, and he is nimble. Furthermore, he is one of the most competitive players in the NBA. Tell Rajon Rondo that he cannot do something and he will do everything that he can to prove you wrong. He is one of those types of players that would run through a wall for you, and that is pretty much what you have to do on American Ninja Warrior.
8 Ty Lawson
When you look at Ty Lawson, he looks like lightning in a bottle or a tight little ball of energy. Lawson has the rare combination of girth and speed. He is easily one of the fastest players on the basketball court. Just watch Lawson push the ball up court and he looks like a blur; he is a shooting comet heading toward the rim. At less than 6-feet tall, he is one of the shortest players on this list, yet even though he is small in stature, he can still dunk a basketball. Lawson is rocket explosive, so it is hard not to picture him blitzing through a course such as the Unstable Bridge, which requires speed, balance, and precision.
7 Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose is coming off of several knee injuries, but his quickness and explosion look like it is back. Sure, he is rusty from a basketball perspective, but in terms of his conditioning and strength, he looks like his old MVP-self. Flexibility is a key factor on American Ninja and Rose’s body is very flexible, which allows him to attack the paint the way that he does. With the dawn of a new era in NBA point guards, point guards have become some of the strongest players in the NBA pound for pound. With dynamite in his shoes, Rose will go down as one of the most athletic point guards to ever play in NBA history.
6 John Wall
John Wall stands at 6’4,” but is also one of the quickest players in the league. Like many of the players on this list, Wall can do it all, but perhaps his best strength is that he is fairly ambidextrous. Wall is one of the few players in the league that prefers to finish with his off hand (left hand), more than his strong hand (right hand). And in American Ninja Warrior, your body needs to have a balance of strength. If you are strong in one area, but not another, obstacle courses such as the Globe Grasp are designed to reveal those flaws, but Wall possesses very good balanced strength.
5 Russell Westbrook
Russell Westbrook may be the most athletic point guard in NBA history and he might be the most athletic person in the league overall. Westbrook is lightning quick and simultaneously very, very strong. While most American Ninja Warrior contestants have to use a rope to climb the majority of the wall towards the end of the course, Westbrook is so dynamic that he could climb the bulk of the wall without even having to use the rope. It is hard to see Westbrook not flourishing in a setting that tests the physical body like this show does.
4 Blake Griffin
At 6’9” Blake Griffin is quite tall. You don’t see too many ninjas that are nearly 7 feet. However, Griffin is no goofy giant. The world has already seen what he could do in the dunk contest. If Griffin can jump over cars, he can certainly jump over other things. During the offseason, Griffin trains on the sand dunes of Los Angeles where he is carrying sand bags and other heavy items up a hill. He is one of the most conditioned athletes in the NBA, so he would have no problem scaling any wall of any size.
3 Eric Bledsoe
Bledsoe is currently going through contract negotiations with the Phoenix Suns and in all likelihood he may have seen his last days in the desert. This isn’t anything new however. The feisty point guard has been overlooked his entire career. He is too small. He cannot shoot. He can’t play defense. But in Bledsoe’s mind, he believes that he is worth far more than the price that he is being offered. When you look at Bledsoe, he is a freak athlete. He has a great wingspan and is pound for pound one of the strongest athletes in the NBA. He is one of those types of players that is willing to get on the floor and hustle. Make no mistake, Blesdoe would have no problems crawling through tight spaces or scaling any wall.
2 LeBron James
When you think of the word ninja, you probably do not think of a 6’9” basketball player that weighs nearly 260 pounds, but LeBron is not the typical athlete by any stretch of the imagination. LeBron is not only the most superior athlete in the NBA, but in the world. He possesses upper body and lower body strength that is off the charts, but his core muscles is what makes him so indestructible. LeBron has a very strong core, which allows his massive frame to be so nimble and agile. James could easily balance on anything despite being so tall because his core is so tight. Admittedly, the show favors smaller players than taller players, but LeBron just might be that exception.
1 Nate Robinson
One of the things that you have to be able to do on American Ninja is support your weight for long periods of time, and Nate Robinson is light and strong at the same time, which gives him a tremendous amount advantage over bigger and heavier contestants. At slightly under six feet tall, Nate possesses a similar physique to many of the contestants on the show. He is a bit stockier than some of your skinnier contestants, but his upper body would be tremendously helpful in obstacles such as the Salmon Ladder where it is all arms and chest.