You hear people always say that NBA players are the best athletes in the world. While that claim is certainly debatable, you can’t argue with the fact that the NBA does have some pretty ridiculous athletes. The game has evolved so much in the past couple of decades and it seems like players keep getting faster, stronger and are jumping higher. Their athleticism has gotten so out of hand that an off-the-bounce, between-the-legs cram in a dunk contest is now the equivalent as a double-pump jam.
And it’s not just guys that have been in slam dunk contests. Back when Earl Boykins was a Clipper eight seasons ago, the 5-5, 130 pound guard reportedly could bench 300 pounds and even dunk the ball. With all these crazy athletes in the League made me wonder: Who are the best athletes in the NBA right now? And by best athletes, we’re talking about the most explosive, naturally gifted and naturally built players. Basically, freaks of nature.
1. LeBron James: Do we even have to explain this one? I’m not sure the NBA has ever had somebody as physically gifted as LeBron. At 6-8 and 260 pounds of pure muscle, James is one of the most physically imposing players in the game, yet has the coordination and grace of a point guard. He is also one of the most explosive players the game has ever seen. A lot of times when he dunks in transition, it seems like his eyes are at rim level. Plus, his strength is incredible. Even when he is matched up with NBA starting small forwards, it still looks like he’s an eighth grader playing with a bunch of fifth graders. With his size, speed, strength and coordination, he could jump into the NFL tomorrow and play anything from a quarterback to a running back to a defensive end.
2. Dwight Howard: Dwight Howard is as close to a video game character as you can get. How many seven-footers can you name that have 40-inch verticals? In the 2007 dunk contest, he slapped a sticker the backboard at 12’8″ while catching an alley-oop and dunking it. In the next year’s contest, he put on a cape and literally jumped so high, that he threw the ball down the rim. Looking at his physique, you can tell how strong he is. The rumor mill around the web says Superman can bench press 365 pounds.
3. Josh Smith: The way J-Smoove can explode off of one foot has me convinced that he could be an Olympic long jumper. And the way he can catch and dunk any alley-oop pass makes me believe that he would make an incredible wide receiver. The combination of his freakish hops and his 6-9 and 240 pound frame, makes it almost impossible for opposing players to stop him at the rim. And if you are a small guard, you better have one hell of a teardrop shot when you play Josh or else he’ll just reject it every time.
4. Nate Robinson: Everybody who saw Robinson in last year’s dunk contest, knows how much of an athletic freak he is. Nate’s athleticism makes Spud Webb look like Big Country Reeves. Spud was scrawny, 5-7, 133 pounds when he played, while Robinson is built like a Tonka truck at 5-9 and 180 pounds. Outside of being able to dunk the basketball every which way (he has a 44-inch vertical), Robinson has the versatility and skill to do other things. As a track athlete in high school, he broke the Washington state record in the 110-meter hurdles. Like his father, Robinson also played college football. He was the starting cornerback for the Washington Huskies his freshman year.
5. Shannon Brown: Kobe Bryant has stated that Brown has “go-go gadget calves” and you can see why. Ever since he’s been a Laker, Brown has provided the basketball world with high-flying dunks almost nightly. He is fearless going to the rim, and as Mikki Moore can tell you, he’s not afraid to dunk on guy’s bigger than him. He has a reported 45-inch vertical. His solid build allows him to match up with any two-guard in the league.
Honorable Mention: Andre Iguodala, Will Bynum, Derrick Rose, Amar’e Stoudemire and Blake Griffin.