The NBA's Best Olympic Athletes
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This isn't a blog posting about NBA players who run the fastest, jump the highest and have the best bodies.
It is about the NBA players who have actually played other sports--Olympic sports--at the national level.
It is about hand-eye coordination, competitive endurance, developed skill sets ... along with speed, force and, yes, great body composition.
So without further adieu, here are the NBA players who can make a legitimate claim that they could have made the Olympics in a sport other than basketball ...
CHASE BUDINGER, Volleyball: When the 24-year-old Minnesota Timberwolves small forward was an 18-year-old high school senior, he was named the 2006 Mizuno Volleyball National Player of the Year. His older sister Brittanie and older brother Duncan both played volleyball professionally in Europe. During the most recent NBA lockout, the 6-7, 218-pound Budinger returned to the volleyball courts, playing in the Corona Light Wide Open beach tournament in Hermosa Beach. TrueHoop's Henry Abbott had a nice Q&A with Budinger about the experience.
DEVIN HARRIS, Volleyball: Harris, a former NBA contributor for HOOP, was a wicked good volleyball player before becoming an NBA player. In high school, Harris was a dual-sport star in basketball and volleyball. No surprise, he has the physical tools that would suggest so: long arms, excellent jumping ability and cat-quick reflexes. Like his occasional forays to the rim, Harris was excellent at the net, using his long wingspan to both spike and block balls. Teamed alongside Budinger, you might possibly have the two-man beach volleyball gold medalists.
TIM DUNCAN, Swimming: When Duncan was 12, the Saint Croix kid was on the U.S. Virgin Islands swimming national team, competing in the 50-, 100- and 400-meter freestyle races. At a Mission Bay, Florida meet, Duncan posted a top 16 U.S. time for his age group. In September 1989, Hurricane Hugo took out Duncan's practice pool and when his mother passed away the following year, Duncan quit swimming and later took up basketball. Tim's older sister Tricia swam the backstroke for the Virgin Islands squad at the 1988 Olympics, finishing 34th in the 100-meter race and 30th in the 200-meter race.
JAMES JOHNSON, Boxing: Judo. Taekwondo. Boxing. You could probably put this 25-year-old Sacramento King in any of these Olympic sports and Johnson would hold his own, with his resume as a seven-time world karate champ, an undefeated kickboxer (20-0) and he even has one Mixed Martial Arts fight under his belt (1-0), detailed oh-so-well in this Sports Illustrated feature. The 6-9, 248-pound power forward comes from a family of fighters--James' sixth-degree black belt father Willie runs J&P Martial Arts School in Cheyenne, Wyoming, with James' mom Vi, also a black belt, along with nine children who are black belts.
JOHN LUCAS III, Tennis: Lucas' NBA-playing father was famous for playing tennis, being named to the 1971 Junior Davis Cup team. And--like father, like son--Lucas III was also a basketball and tennis star, rising up the ranks to his current basketball status as a 5-11, 165-pound Toronto Raptor, while also having tennis success in his background as a nationally-ranked United States Tennis Association Junior National Player. Lucas III also won the District 17-5A singles title for Texas' Bellaire High School as a junior in 1999.
STEVE NASH, Soccer: To describe the 38-year old L.A. Laker's overall athleticism, perhaps it is best to quote Chris Ballard's fabulous book "The Art Of A Beautiful Game" when talking about the 6-3, 178-pound point guard: Growing up, Nash was the best baseball player in his town, excelled at lacrosse and hockey, and was named the player of the year for all of British Columbia high school soccer. As a 10th-grader, the spindly Nash even won the provincial discus championship, and at St. Michael's High School in Victoria, B.C. he was so good at rugby that Basketball Coach Ian Hyde-Lay, who was also the school's rugby coach, thinks he could have played professionally. "He was the best placekicker I've ever seen, professional or amateur in any sport, and I'm counting guys in the NFL too," says Hyde-Lay.
DERON WILLIAMS, Wrestling: The 6-3, 209-pound Brooklyn Net wrestled competitively from ages 5 through 13, winning the middle-school and elementary-school Texas state wrestling championships--Williams took the 116-pound state title as a 12 year old and the 67-pound state title as an 8 year old. No truth to the rumor, however, that Williams is now campaigning for Coach K, trying to get the International Olympic Committee to make yoga the next Olympic sport