NBA Players Influenced by Soccer

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Steve Nash Soccer
Check out some of the top NBA players show off their soccer skills on and off the basketball court. Throughout the NBA there are players who grew up playing soccer when they were young. Sometimes the NBA players show off their soccer juggling skills on the court. I think what soccer / football does for NBA basketball players is give them the ability to cut and move quicker and also to have better vision on the court. Certainly a player like Steve Nash could have played professional soccer if he wanted to. Nash is a diehard Tottenham Hotspurs fan and has trained with them on a number of occasions. Yes, there are quite a few basketball stars who played soccer.

This NY Times piece on NBA players who were influenced by soccer misses out one key player, that being Jason Kidd, who played soccer growing up in the Bay Area. But there are plenty of NBA players who play basketball like you play soccer, moving the ball around and taking players one on one. Here are some more NBA players who played soccer:

  • Steve Nash
  • Jason Kidd
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Pau Gasol
  • Luka Doncic
  • Hakeem Olajuwon
  • Vlade Divac
  • Leandro Barbosa
  • Manu Ginobili
  • Tony Parker
  • Paul George
  • Goran Dragic

But with all the talk about the positive effect of soccer on basketball players, is the youth soccer community suddenly going to have an influx of 6 or 7 footers during the basketball off-season? Perhaps a few more basketball players will be persuaded to stay in soccer—a few conversions so to speak.

I love the last few lines of the article and Kobe’s quote:

After explaining earlier this week how playing and watching soccer helped him see a basketball game unfold in a different light, allowing him to read sequences three, four and five passes ahead, Bryant was asked if there might be a correlation to his team’s basketball smarts and its soccer background.

He thought for only an instant and smiled.

“If I hear your question right,” he said, demonstrating a soccer player’s ability to see down the road, “basically, European players are smarter and American players are just a bunch of idiots?”

Then he sighed.

“I hope it’s not the case this summer in Beijing.”

Other pieces of information related to NBA players and soccer…

Kobe has been seen with his family at some LA Galaxy games recently and was challenged by Freddy Adu in the past to a game of horse. Having grown up in Italy while his dad was playing basketball there, he is said to be a fan of AC Milan. There’s video of Kobe bouncing the basketball on this head, soccer style, during breaks in NBA timeouts.

Steve Nash has invested in the new women’s soccer league, as he has two young daughters who most likely will end up playing soccer themselves.

Steve Nash trains with Inter Milan.

I was watching the Lakers game and wondering if Pau Gasol and Kobe were harkening back to maybe some of their early days as soccer players. I could have sworn that Gasol said, ‘Nice ball’ to Kobe rather than, ‘Nice Pass’. The lexicon in soccer is unique, it’s all about the ‘ball’ in soccer, ‘good ball’, ‘get the ball in’, ‘switch the ball’, ‘play the ball’, ‘keep the ball moving’.

I’m sure all sports have their own sort of language. Then again, with all the internationals playing in the NBA, much like in soccer where it’s like the United Nations on some teams, I’m guessing the language is always based on pointing, head nods and general body language.

The way that Kobe plays is so much like a soccer player, cutting and darting into open spaces. There was one moment in a game recently where Kobe was up in the air and poised shoot, but two players rushed to block his shot, rather than shoot he bounced passed the ball to Gasol who was cutting to the basket. He split the two defenders with the bounce pass. In general, Kobe and the Lakers play basketball like soccer, and it’s beautiful to watch.

In soccer you use your feet like your hands and that just translates to all sorts of sports. If you got good feet then you’ve got good balance and the ability to move laterally with ease—all the other sports become much easier.

Here’s Gasol, Nadal and Ronaldinho in a Nike ad – Flamenco styled showmanship:

Update: Another NBA player who played a bit of soccer growing up is Luka Doncic, he was recently kicked out of a game for kicking the ball.

“I wouldn’t have been ejected for that for sure in Europe. I was trying to juggle the ball. . .I’ve got to work on my soccer skills.” — Luka on getting ejected after he kicked the ball into the stands tonight.

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