Thursday, September 5, 2013

How Athletic Are NBA Players?

I put up a poll a couple weeks ago asking you guys to determine which sports league has the best athletes. The results are in, and it turns out that my readers don't like democracy or America. Just 16 people voted, and five of those were my wife, my best man, the other How Blank blogger, my dog, and me. Special thanks to the 11 other people that knew how to read one simple question and click a mouse.

Thanks for voting, Harry! You're a true American.
Seriously, though, my friends and I have argued about this topic for years, and I'm pleased that the NBA won the poll. The final results:

NBA -- 7 votes
NFL-- 3 votes
NHL -- 3 votes
International Soccer Leagues -- 2 votes
ATP -- 1 vote
PGA, MLB, and Car Racing -- 0 votes

Here's why I agree with the voters that the NBA has the best athletes:

A few years ago, ESPN surveyed 201 American professional athletes. The Worldwide Leader's poll had a much larger sample size than How Blank's, but the results were similar. The panel of athletes picked LeBron James as the best active athlete at that time, and selected Michael Jordan in a landslide as the greatest retired athlete. Okay, you'll say, no surprises there. The NBA is a top-heavy league, and perhaps another league has a deeper overall pool of athletes. But when ESPN asked "What sport has the best athletes?," the NBA collected 78 votes while the second-place NFL garnered just 42. With 53-man rosters, the NFL might boast a larger number of great athletes, but I think average NBA players are more athletic than average NFL players. The pro jocks interviewed by ESPN in 2007 seem to agree with me.

Now that we've covered American sports, I'll address another potential challenger to the NBA -- international soccer. Soccer got no love in the aforementioned ESPN poll, tying cycling for fifth place among pro sports. This result mirrored most Americans' general attitude toward the game. Here's what my buddy Chris wrote on Facebook when I asked about the league with the best athletes:

"I think its going to be pretty obvious soccer wont get to much of a vote since people simply hate soccer here in america, except for world cup time when everyone becomes an professional analyst."  

Because his response was posted on Facebook, we'll give Chris a mulligan for his awful spelling and grammar. He makes a good point, though. Since MLS isn't one of our main sports leagues, Americans tend to ignore soccer in arguments like this. The perception of soccer players as weenie floppers doesn't help their cause. Still, despite my patriotic bias, I don't buy the idea that soccer players would be able to cross over to other sports and excel like basketball players would. The blend of quickness, speed, leaping ability, reflexes, and strength required in basketball would help NBA ballers switch sports more easily than their counterparts in professional soccer. Most hoopsters could use their tremendous athleticism to move to other sports and dominate. In every sport except for diving, that is.

Regardless of their unwillingness to vote or their disagreements about the merits of various pro sports leagues, all my readers can agree on two things:

1. LeBron is a phenomenal athlete.
2. Some athletes, no matter how phenomenal, shouldn't be allowed near a swimming pool.

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