If you are good enough to make it to any professional level, chances are that some of your talents are easily transferable to other sports as well. There are just some skillsets that are equally required in every sport: instinct, vision, hand-eye coordination, and work ethic. And NBA players have the unique edge of simply having natural talent in terms of their physique. As the saying goes, you can’t teach size.
Historically, NBA players usually played up to two to three sports in high school. Some even played another sport in college. Take for example Charlie Ward. The former point guard for the New York Knicks was not only a star athlete in high school, but college as well. In fact, Ward won the Heisman Trophy award while he played quarterback for the Florida State Seminoles. Fred Hoiberg is another example of a basketball player that was recruited to play quarterback for powerhouse Nebraska, but decided to play basketball at Iowa State instead.
And of course there is Allen Iverson. Iverson has frequently said that his first love was always football, not basketball. Just go on YouTube and you can see just how dynamic Iverson was as a quarterback in high school. There are even clips where Iverson is dribbling a football between his legs like it is a basketball. Iverson was always a one of a kind athlete.
Today, there are even more NBA players that also have a love for football. Many of them played football in high school and in some cases even played football in college. Of course, most never played much longer than high school because they were fully invested in the game of basketball and did not want to get injured. But what if these players decided to go the other direction and played football instead of basketball? The following is a list of the top-20 players that probably could have played in the NFL if they chose to focus on football instead of basketball.
20 Kendrick Perkins – Defensive Lineman
Sometimes you have to wonder if Kendrick Perkins really did pick the wrong sport to play. Perkins does not really have any NBA skillsets. He can’t shoot, dribble, or pass. However, he is good at looking intimidating and you can bet that he wishes that the NBA was more physical. And at 6’10” and 280 pounds, he could take out his frustrations on a quarterback the way that he wants to with his opponents on the basketball court.
19 Derrick Rose – Punt Returner
Derrick Rose has the foot speed to be the perfect punt returner. Rose’s herky-jerky moves make him the perfect punt returner to dodge defenders by making them miss tackles. His ability to change direction and change speed on the basketball court would be easily transferable to the football field. If he could stay on the field, he would be a nightmare to guard for any special team.
18 Marc Gasol – Offensive Lineman
Marc Gasol stands at a mammoth 7’1” and 265 pounds. In reality, he is probably closer to 285 pounds. Gasol has a low center of gravity, which explains why he is not a great leaper, however, his low center of gravity would make him a perfect offensive lineman. Gasol is used to guarding the paint by boxing out opponents with his body and using his hands to nudge defenders, so being an offensive lineman would fit right up his alley.
17 Steve Nash – Kicker
Steve Nash’s love for soccer is well documented, which could make him an ideal kicker as well. Nash is obviously a non-contact type of player, but kickers don’t have to tackle anyone and rarely see any contact in general. Nash may prefer to play the international version of football more, but he could definitely play the American version of football if he can kick a football as far as he can kick a soccer ball.
16 Andrew Bogut - Center
Andrew Bogut stands at 7’0” and 245 pounds and you know that he must have played a little rugby growing up. To put it simply, rugby is like football without helmets. And Bogut is one of the toughest guys in the NBA. Bogut would make a great center in the NFL with his size, toughness, and willingness to get physical. We'd bet that with his rugby background, he'd be one of the nastier players in the league.
15 Reggie Evans - Linebacker
Reggie Evans has made a living out of doing garbage work in the NBA. Evans has very little NBA talent, but he has a ton of energy and out hustles almost everyone he plays against. Evans loves physicality and contact, which makes him an ideal person to hit people. If Evans were to ever make the NFL he would make a terrific linebacker. He wouldn't be able to be a middle linebacker, but as a high energy pass rusher, he could make a difference.
14 Tony Allen - Cornerback
Tony Allen has made a career in the NBA by being a defensive specialist. Even though Allen stands at only 6’5,” he can guard players that are over five inches taller than him. Allen is excellent at knowing how to use space and he is quick enough to recover on defense if he gives up too much ground. This makes Allen the perfect type of cornerback with his defensive tenacity and love for shutting people down.
13 DeAndre Jordan – Offensive Lineman
DeAndre Jordan stands at 6’11” and 250 pounds and his wingspan is probably close to 7’6” long, which could make him a very good offensive lineman. With his ability to push off defensive lineman with his long reach, he could definitely create enough space between the quarterback and any defender so that the quarterback has enough time to throw the football. There is a reason why good offensive lineman are always taken in the first round.
12 Lance Stephenson - Safety
You have to be a little crazy to play safety, so Lance Stephenson is the perfect candidate for the job. Just look at Stephenson’s eyes. He would love nothing more than to hit a wide receiver running a route down the middle. Stephenson is quick, possesses great size, and he has great hands as well, which would make him a great safety on defense. If LeBron James were playing wideout, he'd do anything to stop him. Even blow in his ear.
11 Blake Griffin - Linebacker
Blake Griffin gets a very bad reputation for being a soft player, but he is hardly that. There is perhaps no other player in the league that gets hit as hard as Griffin does. And you can bet that he would love to return those hits if it was allowed in the NBA like you are in the NFL. Griffin is fast and strong, which would make him an ideal linebacker lurking on the field. The only problem is that if he were to score a defensive touchdown, he wouldn't be able to dunk the ball to celebrate.
10 Eric Bledsoe – Running Back
Just look at Eric Bledsoe’s physique and you could easily see him bust out between the tiniest holes created by the offensive line. This explosive point guard is not only fast, but he is quick. And as a point guard, he possesses great hands and great vision, which are all necessary for a successful tailback. Most of all, the kid is tough. If Bledsoe gets hit, he’s going to get back up.
9 Kevin Durant – Wide Receiver
Kevin Durant and LeBron James’s flag football game was so popular that it was televised on national television. Everyone knows about LeBron’s love for football, but who knew that Durant was such a good receiver as well. KD would be a total liability on running plays, but at nearly 7 feet tall, Durant possesses great size to be a wide receiver. Can you imagine this lanky wide receiver running down the field for a Hail Mary? His target zone would be so big that any quarterback could just lob it in the air to him.
8 John Wall – Punt Returner
John Wall is one of the fastest players in the NBA with the ball. He can go from one end of the court to the other end of the court in less than 4 seconds, so can you imagine what he can do with 100 yards of real estate? Wall is so fast that he would cause fits for any special team trying to take him down. Wall could easily make a living by just returning kicks in the NFL. On top of that, he could even be a dangerous slot receiver or he could be a useful gadget running back
7 Russell Westbrook – Wide Receiver
Russ is as tough as nails. He is one of the most athletic players in NBA history. He is as fast as a gazelle, can jump out of the gym, and he has attitude. Russ would be a great wide receiver in the NFL. At 6’3” Russell may be small for NBA standards, but that is the perfect size for any wide receiver in the NFL. Plus, he has a vertical leap of nearly 40 inches that would be higher than almost anyone in the NFL, which makes him a great target for any quarterback. Imagine him paired up with Kevin Durant on the football.
6 J.R. Smith – Wide Receiver
J.R. Smith has developed a reputation for being a bit of a thug in the NBA, but that does not diminish his athletic worth. When Smith is right in the end, he is one of the best guards in the NBA. Furthermore, Smith was a very good wide receiver in high school, so he is not inexperienced with the game of football. Just watch Smith play basketball and you can tell that he is one of those types of athletes that is just good at about everything he plays at.
5 Glen Davis – Defensive Lineman
Glen Davis played football in high school as a defensive end, defensive tackle and even tailback where he grew up in Louisiana. It is no coincidence that when you look at Big Baby he resembles a football player much more than a basketball player. At 6’9” and 289 pounds, Davis is not only tall, but also very heavy. The fact that he can even move up and down the court with NBA point guards is a testament to his conditioning and speed. If Davis was playing football he would be the optimal defensive end and you know that he would be a major distraction to any quarterback with his long wingspan.
4 Matt Barnes – Wide Receiver
When Matt Barnes was in high school, he was an All-American football player and basketball player at Del Campo High School in California. At 6’7” Barnes has always possessed great size as a wide receiver. Maybe it is his football background, but Barnes has never been afraid to go up against anybody in the NBA, whether it is Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. He is one of the NBA bad boys in every good sense, and if he put a helmet on his head, he would fit right in.
3 Rajon Rondo – Quarterback
Rajon Rondo has already gone as far as to say that he could have played quarterback in the NFL. In many ways, the point guard on the basketball court is the equivalent of the quarterback on the football field. And there aren't many better point guards in the NBA than Rajon Rondo at reading the defense and getting his offensive teammates involved. Obviously, Rondo would have to put on a little bit more weight to absorb hits made by 300 pounders, but there is no doubt that he possesses the size, the speed, and the arm to be a leader on the football field.
2 Nate Robinson – Cornerback
Unlike many NBA players that were successful football players in high school, Nate Robinson played football not only in high school, but also in college. Robinson played cornerback for the University of Washington for only one-year before deciding to focus on basketball full time. However, the 5’9” point guard with a 40-inch vertical leap fully believes that he could have been a top 3 cornerback in the NFL. He already sounds like a cornerback.
1 LeBron James – Tight End
LeBron James is not only the best athlete in basketball, but he is the best athlete in the world – bar none. We all know LeBron for his high flying dunks and multiple championships, but when LeBron was in high school he was also an All-State wide receiver during his freshman and sophomore seasons. However, LeBron quickly realized that he would have to focus on one sport instead of another, and he obviously chose the right one. But stop and think about what a 6’9” tight end that weighed 260 pounds with a vertical leap of 44 inches could have done on the football field is just downright scary.