More than ever, the NBA is about athleticism – as the game has evolved through the years, so have the players. The NBA is now at a point where the typical player is much more explosive than at any time in the history of the sport. The players are now bigger, faster, stronger, and this just makes for better highlights on Sports Center. Here are the most athletic players in the NBA.
5. Shannon Brown
Shannon Brown’s got the best athletic ability out of any of the non-superstar players in the NBA, and he’s got the perfect skill set to be an explosive dunker too. With a ridiculous vertical jump and gigantic hands, he wows crowds at Staples Center routinely with his one legged takeoffs from just inside the free throw line. Although he lacks the creativity to thrive in a dunk contest setting, he is nonetheless one of the special athletes in the league, who is capable of dunking on anyone. If only he wouldn’t have settled for so many three pointers this year…
4. Russell Westbrook
If it weren’t for Rose, Westbrook would be hands down the most athletic point guard in the league. Coming out of UCLA, no one really believed in his ability, but almost everybody was sold on his athletic prowess, and the Oklahoma City Thunder made him their first pick of that draft in no small part because of it. Since that time, his basketball abilities have been catching up with his athletic abilities, although he can still get up as well as anyone in the game. At only 6’3” he dunks regularly on bigger players, and is often on the receiving end of alley oops. He isn’t that smooth or fluid, especially because he dunks quite a bit off the wrong foot, but he nonetheless has springs in his legs – and is quick enough to drive past nearly anyone in front of him. He’ll be a force in the league for years.
3. Derrick Rose
It’s beautiful to watch Rose, who not only has more athletic ability than Westbrook (I’d say slightly more), but also so much more grace. Rose is so explosive that it’s a given when he blows by the first line of defense and challenges the bigs in the paint, where he often out-jumps and outstretches everyone in the vicinity, contorting his body to get off a reverse layup off any hand, from any side of the rim. But pitted against players his own size, he shows no mercy, and as Goran Dragic can attest to, Rose can dunk that ball with ferocity too. He’s like the smaller version of LeBron James, but with even more quickness.
2. Blake Griffin
Blake Mamba, as they call him, burst onto the scene this year after a disappointing rookie season that saw him get injured because of the Clipper Curse. This season, he’s come back stronger than ever, and with a vengeance. Just about every night, he is the talk of the town, because of his converted alley oops that are just so unbelievable that defenders don’t want to even be in the vicinity, lest they be turned into a poster as almost every one of the Knicks players is. Although the dunk contest was very impressive, it did no justice to the real athletic ability of Blake, who had single handedly reinvested Baron Davis’s career before the trade. Once his basketball ability catches up, he’ll be an MVP candidate for years to come.
1. LeBron James
The hate for LeBron James does nothing to downplay his great skill and athleticism. And on that athletic aspect, he is an absolute specimen who outshines every single NBA player, past or present. He’s got the power, quickness, and jumping ability to compete with anybody, and he can drive past the best perimeter defenders and jump over the best shot blockers. A single anecdote that emphasizes this fact is a rumor that during a Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice he jumped so high for an alley oop that his waist came up to the rim. The real scary part of this is that I didn’t really even think twice when I heard it because I actually think it might be true. Now that’s athleticism.