The World Cup kicked off Friday morning in host country South Africa, and with that the NBA Finals were completely forgotten by about 90% of the globe (including, ahem, your faithful editors at ETB). The Cup has and probably always will trump the NBA Finals in most parts of the world when it comes around every 4 years, so maybe it’s time the NBA’s players stopped swimming against the tide and joined in.
What if Team USA had access to a time machine and could start training the NBA’s future stars in the ways of the world’s most popular sport instead? Who would they target and for what positions? Lucky for you I pondered these questions and have some answers.
Here are your NBA members of the hypothetical 2010 World Cup champs (if Team USA soccer actually had a time machine, and, well, didn’t actually use it to help humanity):
Goalie: LeBron James
With his size, hops, and quick-twitch speed, LeBron would probably be the best goalie in the world. He’d pounce on any opponents who dribble their way into the middle, could block shots close to the goal that require lightning fast reflexes, and he’d easily snatch any crosses that were intended for headers anywhere in the box. His aggressive attitude would fit his massive frame well, controlling the penalty area to the point of intimidation.
Center Fullbacks: Ron Artest and Chris Andersen
Center fullbacks have to control the area in front of the goalie so that opponents never get an easy look to score. They need the physical and mental toughness to stand up to any world-class forward, and they need enough speed to cover up anything that slips by the fullbacks out on the wings or the midfielders. Not only that, they are usually two of the team’s taller players so that they can head looping crosses out of harm’s way. I’d say Artest and Andersen are just about the perfect combination of size, toughness, and attitude to ensure no one ever gets a clean look at the goal.
Left and Right Fullbacks: Monta Ellis and Russell Westbrook
You need fullbacks on the wing who are fast and annoying and all over anything that the opponents are trying to develop from the outside. They have to be relentless on defense and willing to push ahead quickly with the ball when the opportunity presents itself for a counter-attack. Ellis and Westbrook possess all the natural skills necessary, plus they’re both more than able to pester opponents into making bad decisions with the ball, or to turn poor passes into quick strikes the other way.
The rest of the NBA FIFA World Cup 2010 team after the break…
Center Midfielders: Chris Paul and Jason Kidd
Midfielders have to have the mentality to be a central part of every attack and every defense, and those in the middle help set the tone and pace for their team more than anyone. They need to be smart, willing to direct traffic on all parts of the pitch, and able to erase mistakes any of their teammates make. Paul’s mental makeup and incredible speed would make him ideal for this position, and Kidd’s added strength would be helpful when things start to get chippy in the middle-third.
Left and Right Midfielders: Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose
Again, midfielders are an important aspect whether a team is looking to score or prevent a score, so they need the legs and stamina to be everywhere for the full 90 minutes. On offense, midfielders on the wings are often the players who fly down the sidelines with the ball in order to make crossing paths into the box for their forwards before a defense is set. In other words, you need players who can use bursts of speed before setting up their teammates in transition. On defense, left and right midfielders need to help ruin any opponent’s ability to make a clean run up the field or a clean pass from the wing into the box. Rondo and Rose both display all of these qualities.
Forwards: Dwyane Wade and Paul Pierce
Most teams that play two forwards up front fill the spots with two different types of scorers: one that is dynamic and can create for himself in the open field; and a taller, stronger player who picks his spots to knock in one-touchers in traffic, often in the air with his head. Wade is as fast and shifty with the ball as anyone, and he could definitely embarrass more than a few defenders who are stuck trying to slow him down in the middle. Pierce has that veteran’s know-how to find the right opportunity to be able to make a single, skillful touch on the ball that’s the difference between a goal and not, plus he’s plenty tall enough to work anything across the middle in the air.
Longtime ETB contributor Zachariah Blott is also the founder and editor of Hoops Karma, which provides expert NBA news and analysis.