NBA Players with Football Ties
Before many NBA players tore it up on the gridiron before they became pros on the hardcourt. One of the most notable, of course, was Allen Iverson. The 14-year NBA veteran who won the 2001 MVP award and claimed four scoring titles was a highlight machine on the gridiron in high school. He led both the football and basketball teams at Bethel (Va.) High School to state titles before heading to Georgetown for hoops. If you haven't seen the YouTube highlights of Iverson as QB at Bethel, please do so.
"The Chosen One," as dubbed by SI , was a known basketball star during his high school days at St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Akron, Ohio. But while he was making big moves on the court, he was also earning accolades on the football field. In his sophomore year, he was named first-team all-state as a wide receiver and he led the Fighting Irish to the state semifinals his junior year. Former Browns coach Eric Mangini said LeBron could have had a spot on his team, and Ohio State coach Jim Tressel admitted that he would've loved to have had James as a Buckeye.
The 5-foot-9 speed demon tore up football defenses as a high school senior, tallying more than 1,200 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving to go with 21 touchdowns at Rainier Beach High in Seattle. He was named a SuperPrep All-American in 2001. He went on to play wideout and point guard for the University of Washington, and is now a spark plug at the point for the Celtics. Did we mention he's only 5-foot-9?
The 6-9, 290-pound "Big Baby" played defensive end, defensive tackle and tailback at University Laboratory High in Baton Rouge, La. But he gave up his tackling days and set his sites on basketball, accepting a scholarship to LSU. Now a key reserve for the Celtics, Davis has made it known that he wants to become an NFL star once he becomes an NBA All-Star.
Gee, where do we start? He won the 1993 Heisman Trophy and Davey O'Brien Award as a quarterback at Florida State. He also led FSU to its first national championship, in the '93 Orange Bowl. He was also a four-year player in basketball at Florida State and holds school records for career steals (236) and single-game steals (nine) and ranks sixth all time in assists (396). Since he wasn't taken in the first round of the NFL draft, he decided to pursue the NBA and was selected 26th overall by the Knicks in 1994. He played for three teams as point guard before hanging up his high-tops in 2005.
Rondo wanted to be a football player from the start. But his mother, worried about the scrawny youngster taking a beating, steered him toward basketball. Momma knew best, because he's now the NBA leader in assists and owns a shiny championship ring from 2008.
Given his 6-foot-9, 240-pound frame, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Wallace garnered all-state honors in multiple sports (basketball, track and football) in high school. His talents on the field, though, were good enough that Auburn offered him a football scholarship and had visions of him playing both offense and defense. But Wallace didn't want to give up basketball, so he turned down the offer, played basketball at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland for two years and later transferred to Virginia Union. In 1996, he signed with the Washington Bullets as an undrafted rookie free agent. Now a Detroit Piston, Wallace won an NBA title in 2004 and four defensive player of the year awards.
The Celtics' backup center dabbled in football in his teenage years, playing quarterback for the Eau Claire (S.C.) High School team through his junior year. But he gave it up and bolted for the NBA after his senior year.
Just look at him. How could Shaq not be a prime football candidate? As he told Michael Wilbon a while back, he played tight end in high school and would have kept playing "because of my exceptional hands and foot speed. But my junior year -- of course, I was all-world -- some little scrawny dude hit me in the knee after I had scored. And that was it. Done. I thought, $2 million a year to play football or $80 to $100 million to play basketball? This is what we call a no-brainer."
These were his words: "I played football for one day. I gave my equipment to the coach and said, 'Thank you, this is a bit too stressful for me.'"
Harpring was born into a football family. His grandfather played at Navy. His father played at Michigan. His uncle played at Notre Dame. One of his brothers played at Northwestern. Another brother played at Akron. Matt appeared to be on the same track: A 6-foot-8 quarterback at Marist School near Atlanta, he was recruited by top schools, including Wisconsin and Northwestern and Wisconsin. But after watching a Big Ten basketball game on one of his recruiting trips, he decided to focus solely on basketball, and even convinced Bobby Cremins that he was Division I material. Which he was: Harpring became Georgia Tech's all-time leader in attempted and made free throws, and No. 2 in points and rebounds. He was drafted by Orlando Magic as the 15th overall pick in 1998. After injuries derailed his NBA career, he joined the Utah Jazz's broadcast team.
The Durham, N.C., native was a standout wide receiver at Southern Durham High School and committed to the University of the North Carolina for football. But he later turned down the scholarship offer so he could be a walk-on with the basketball team. Though many said his football talents were better than his basketball skills, Noel earned a hoops scholarship by his sophomore season and went on to help the Tar Heels to an NCAA championship in 2005. He was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks as the 39th overall pick in 2006 and now plays with French club Paris-Levallois.
The six-time NBA champion (five as a coach, one as a player) and current Miami Heat president also happened to be a stellar wide receiver out of Kentucky. So stellar, in fact, that he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 11th round in 1967. But after also being picked by the San Diego Rockets in the first round of the NBA draft that same year, Riley chose to utilize his basketball skills, helping the Lakers to the 1972 championship as a player. He later became one of the top 10 coaches in NBA history and, most recently, masterminded Miami's unprecedented free agent haul in 2010.
The eight-time NBA champion and Hall of Famer is without a doubt one of basketball's all-time greats. But before he made it big in the NBA, the 6-foot-5 Havlicek was a three-sport athlete who gained notice for his talents on the football field. In 1962, he was drafted both by the NBA's Boston Celtics and the NFL's Cleveland Browns, in the seventh round. He completed a brief stint at the Browns' training camp that year but decided to focus solely on hoops and his future with the Celtics. The decision seemed to work out well for him.
In short, Ainge could do it all in high school: He led North Eugene (Ore.) High School to back-to-back state titles in basketball in 1976-77, was one of the state's top football recruits and is the only person to be named a first-team All-American in football, basketball and baseball. Ainge gave up football to pursue pro careers in both baseball (he's the youngest player in Toronto Blue Jays history to hit a home run) and basketball (he played 14 seasons in the NBA, coached three seasons, won two titles and was inducted into the Hall of Fame). He currently serves as Celtics president.
After a frustrating start to his NBA career, Barnes thought about giving up basketball during the 2006 offseason to pursue a career in pro football. After all, he was a star receiver at Del Campo High School in Sacramento, where he earned All-American honors his senior year and led the nation with 28 touchdowns. He was offered tryouts with multiple NFL teams but, after much consideration, he decided to keep pushing ahead with basketball. Last summer, the 6-foot-7 backup forward signed with the reigning champion Lakers, his ninth NBA team since entering the league in 2002.
Smith was a top-ranked receiver early in his high school career, but after transferring schools and reclassifying as a junior, he gave up football to focus on basketball. Before the 2010-11 season, though, Smith tweeted that if there's an NBA lockout in 2011, he would go back to college, to the University of Miami, and play wide receiver for the Hurricanes.
The current Orlando Magic guard and 2006 NBA champion (with the Miami Heat) was always a top-notch athlete, gaining notice for his feats in basketball as well as baseball and football while growing up. At DuPont High School in Belle, W. Va., he was basketball and football teammates with current NFL receiver Randy Moss. In 1992 and '93, Williams played quarterback and receiver at DuPont alongside Moss before deciding to focus on basketball in college.
Before the 6-foot-1 guard made it to the NBA, he was a walk-on kicker for Division II Fayetteville (N.C.) State University in 1989, where he twice kicked school-record 48-yard field goals. Armstrong, who played with five different NBA teams and won the league's Sixth Man Award with the Magic in 1999, had said he long preferred football over basketball. And, in fact, as a punter and part-time receiver for Ashbrook High he didn't even start playing hoops until his senior year of high school. Armstrong retired from the NBA in 2007.