I’ve always told anyone who would listen that the NBA has the world’s best athletes. They combine size (okay, not Nate Robinson), athleticism (okay, not Zydrunas Ilgauskas), and coordination (okay, not Hasheem Thabeet). Seriously, in what other sport do athletes have such an impressive blend of physical traits? Football players are great athletes, but they’re more specialized. Some guys are simply strong. Others are simply fast. Still others are kickers. Meanwhile, almost all NBA players mix every physical trait you could ever dream of: they’re tall, strong, and explosive.
Julian Benbow’s piece on two-sport athletes got me thinking: what if the Celtics fielded a football team? Would they be competitive? Who’d play where? Here’s my best guess.
Quarterback: Rajon Rondo
Football was Rondo’s first love, and he might have continued playing if his mother hadn’t “steered him toward basketball …, knowing the sport would be less punishing on his skinny frame.” Rondo would bring a Michael Vick-like elusiveness to the position, and his court vision should translate well to the gridiron. What about arm strength, you ask? Marquis Daniels missed a large chunk of last season because Rondo’s arm seconds as a cannon. “Nolan Ryan Rondo threw the ball in practice, I tried to catch it, and it just hit my thumb wrong and swelled up a little more,” Daniels said at the time. Yup, Nolan Ryan Rondo’s my quarterback.
Running Back: Nate Robinson
Have you seen his football highlights? HAVE YOU SEEN HIS FOOTBALL HIGHLIGHTS??? Robinson looked like an obscene mixture of Usain Bolt, college Reggie Bush and Gary Coleman. He could really play. Powerful and ridiculously explosive, Robinson’s a touchdown waiting to happen.
Wide Receiver: Ray Allen
Ray wouldn’t be the NFL’s fastest receiver, not by a long shot, but he’s got ideal size and I’d bet anything he would run routes like a golden god. At 6’5″, 205 lbs., Ray would make a living in the red zone. Need a TD? Just toss it up in the air. Fade routes all day. Need a first down? Just call on Ray. Perfect route, Charmin-soft hands, move the chains. Like clockwork.
Wide Receiver: Von Wafer
Every team needs a prima donna wide receiver, right? Wafer would be the type of wide receiver that would brawl with his quarterback, bitch out his head coach, slap his offensive coordinator across the face, and then catch a 75-yard touchdown pass just because he’s 6’5″ and gifted. Physical tools hide a lot of deficiencies, folks.
Wide Receiver: Avery Bradley
The big play threat who could break out for a touchdown at any time, Bradley might get injured the first time he got hit. But to hit him, they’d have to catch him. And to catch him, they’d have to be willing to die themselves. (Okay, bad time for the Rocky IV reference.) Just send Bradley deep and let him make plays. And don’t ever lead Bradley over the middle into Ray Lewis, or else Lewis might finally get convicted of murder.
Tight End: Paul Pierce
He’d have to put on 15 or 25 pounds to play tight end, but Pierce would be a good tight end. Imagine a 6’7″, 255-lb. monster with some athleticism and good hands, catching TD passes all day long. Think Rob Gronkowski’s size mixed with Antonio Gates’ ability to get open, mixed with a 14-year old’s patchy facial hair.
Offensive Line: Luke Harangody, Shaq, Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins, Jermaine O’Neal
The team’s biggest weakness. Yeah, Harangody’s big. Yeah, Jermaine O’Neal’s strong. But they aren’t offensive line strong, you feel me? Mario Williams would make those two guys look like pre-pubescent little girls. The other three Celtics on the line? Shaq’s a monster with the long reach of a crane, Perkins’s lower body has legally been labeled an immovable object, and Glen Davis has the best size for a football player of any of them. Those three could probably hold their own, but ‘Gody and Jermaine would be busy getting pancaked and giving up sacks.
(Note: I know Kevin Garnett didn’t even make the cut, but I only listed my offense. Garnett’s the all-time field goal blocker.)
When you think about it, the Celtics could field a damn good football team. Okay, maybe not damn good, but at the very least they’d beat the Detroit Lions.