Nate Robinson’s body hit the canvas like a crash test dummy’s would. The one and only three-time Slam Dunk Champion was walloped with a vicious right hand from YouTuber Jake Paul on Saturday, which sent Robinson crumbling to the deck in the second round of their Tyson-Jones Jr. undercard bout. Paul knocked down Robinson twice before that, as his overly-aggressive style left him wide open to Paul, who has trained as a fighter. It wasn’t a good look for Nate Robinson.
A part of me understands why Nate Robinson tried his hand in the ring, however. It’s clear he has speed, power, and quickness; the man is 5’9″ and played 11 seasons in the NBA. You can’t accomplish that without being an elite athlete. Why not put yourself to the test? This experiment didn’t work out, but there are several other NBA players, past and present, who I imagine could handle themselves with the gloves on better than Robinson did (at least on paper).
Yes, this is Ron Artest/Metta World Peace’s new name, as of May 2020. We all know why he’s on this list. A bit of a low-hanging fruit? Absolutely. But the 6’6″, 260-pound forward clearly has some oomph in his right hand. He’d also be around the same size as Anthony Joshua, so the unteachable aspects of boxing are there. He could knock someone out cold if he caught him with a right cross.
6’6″ dudes with 6’11” wingspans are well-built for the boxing ring. Andre Iguodala is as sculpted as they come, is plenty athletic, and has no problem being physical. He’d probably have to put on some weight to survive in the heavyweight division (he’s listed at 215), but he seems like the kind of guy that will do anything to succeed at something he sets his mind to. Iguodala could work some people if he trained for it (and I mean REALLY trained for it. Not like what Nate Robinson did.)
James Johnson would have the smallest learning curve of the basketball-to-boxing projects, since he could probably kick ass right now. The 6’8″ forward is already an established martial artist, with a 7-0 MMA record and 20-0 kickboxing record. Johnson is a 2nd-degree black belt who comes from a family full of them. Boxing is certainly a different arena than the octagon, but he is at least familiar with the fundamentals of organized combat sports. James Johnson could absolutely pivot into a fighting career after his time in the NBA is over.
The problem with NBA players stepping into the ring is most of them are too tall and lanky. Save for a freak of nature like Deontay Wilder, whose right hand can end a fight at any moment, most boxers are relatively compact, covered in armor that helps them withstand punishment. Not many NBA players look like that, but Semi Ojeleye, the Boston Celtics‘ 6’6″ 240-pound defensive specialist, is one of them. He made a name for himself as a rookie by shutting down Giannis Antetokounmpo in the 2018 playoffs, a man with nearly half a foot on him. Ojeleye is plenty physical, and can also hold his own on the perimeter using his athleticism. He’d be a project, but the 25-year-old has the intangibles to succeed in the ring.
Duh. Arguably the most intimidating player in the history of the game, Wallace was a four-time Defensive Player of the Year, who routinely bullied players significantly taller than him. He was also among the instigators of the Malice at the Palace debacle, as his epic shove of Ron Artest (at the time) got everything going. Ben Wallace was built like a brick shithouse and would absolutely have the edge after every face-off. He’s 46, so it’s fair to wonder what he has left in the tank. I’m not betting against this dude, though.
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