It takes a special kind of human to have the size, skill, and determination to earn a spot in one of the USA’s three major sports leagues: the MLB, NFL, and NBA. The number of people that make it to the show represent a minuscule percentage of the general population. Percentages are lowest in the NBA, where rosters allow 15 players.
Playing professional sports is hard enough, but playing two simultaneously is something only a few players in history have accomplished.
The two that come to mind most often are Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson. Both tore up the gridiron and the baseball diamond during the same period. Other examples with less success in their second sport include Michael Jordan and Tim Tebow.
I see many NFL players throw out first pitches in baseball games, and it got me thinking about which current players have the chops to compete in more than one sport.
Russell Wilson Is the Best Baseball Talent in the NFL
Russell Wilson may be 34 and slowly aging out of the NFL, but he could always moonlight as a baseball player if his football career ends prematurely.
Wilson was one of the best quarterbacks in the league for a few seasons, but he was also nearly tempted away by the MLB multiple times. He was drafted twice by MLB, first by the Baltimore Orioles in 2007 and again by the Colorado Rockies in 2010.
The biggest reason Wilson automatically takes this title is he spent a good chunk of time putting in work in the minor leagues. He spent two summers playing as a second baseman at the Class A level for the Rockies minor league system. He didn’t exactly impress with a .229 average and five home runs in 93 games, but he competed and didn’t embarrass himself.
— ScienceWitness.com (@ScienceWitness) March 2, 2018
Wilson also spent time in 2013 and 2014 during spring training as a Texas Rangers farm system member, having been acquired in the Rule 5 Draft. Eventually, Wilson was traded to the New York Yankees and assigned to their Double-A team, the Trenton Thunder. Wilson pinch hit for Aaron Judge during a Spring game in 2018. He struck out on five pitches against Max Fried of the Atlanta Braves.
LeBron James Had a Ton of NFL Potential
In the entire history of the NFL and NBA, only three players managed to suit up for both. Otto Graham and Bud Grant were the only two players to achieve this feat since the 1950s until fairly recently when Mark Vital played during the NBA Summer League for the Portland Trail Blazers before transitioning to the NFL in 2021 as a member of the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs.
I bring this up to illustrate that the characteristics of a good football player and a good basketball player are different than you might think. That is why most two-sport athletes play baseball and football.
In his early to mid-20s, LeBron James was the closest any NBA player has been to an NFL talent in quite a long time. Hell, he is so physically gifted he probably could have been the greatest Jai alai player or high diver in history if he chose to be.
James played three years of football in high school and became a two-time All-Ohio selection with 99 catches, 1,912 receiving yards, and 27 touchdowns. Powerhouses such as Ohio State, Miami, and Notre Dame recruited him to play football.
LeBron James high school football highlights 🔥
— Timeless Sports (@timelesssports_) September 28, 2021
Some heavyweight college coaches, such as Urban Meyer and Mark Murphy, agreed that James could have thrived in the NCAA and NFL as a pass-catcher.
At 6-foot-9 and 270 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan and a 40-inch vertical, It’s hard to bet against James being able to succeed in any sport he puts his mind to.
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Mo Alie-Cox Was a Basketball Star at VCU
Before transitioning from the hardcourt to the gridiron, Indianapolis Colts TE Mo Alie-Cox, was a standout at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) as a member of the men’s basketball team.
Alie-Cox played for four years as a member of the Rams as their starting power forward. He became a favorite of coaches, teammates, and fans for his tenacious defense and top-tier shot-blocking abilities.
Alie-Cox was such a prolific shot-swatter that fans began chanting, “Mo Says No!”
In 103 games as a starter, Alie-Cox scored 1.092 points with 663 rebounds and 87 steals. He blocked 255 shots in 3,322 minutes on the court. He also led the Rams to their first A10 Conference Championship, earning All-Tournament team honors. He remains VCU’s all-time leader in field goal percentage.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) May 24, 2021
It sounds like the recipe for a successful career in the NBA, but Cox’s physical traits earned him a spot on the Indianapolis Colts, having not played organized football since his freshman year of high school.
Since joining the NFL in 2017, Alie-Cox has seen limited action due to several untimely injuries. Nonetheless, he signed a three-year deal in 2022 worth $18 million.
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