Basketball Makes Better Football Players

When I think about an athlete, my mind conjures up images of football, basketball, baseball, track, hockey, skiing, soccer, and anything that requires skilled physical activity. In today’s sport culture, we are developing less athletes and more sport participants. Depending on age, location, and sex, kids are being required to participate in only one sport year-round at an alarmingly early age. This specialization of sports is leading to overworked kids and lack of youth involvement in sports around the globe. To combat this, I suggest that athletes everywhere try the old-fashioned way of playing multiple sports to prevent injury and increase overall athleticism. To make it easier to understand, I’ll explain how playing basketball could benefit present and future American Football players.

Look at some of the best NFL and NBA basketball players’ sports backgrounds, you will find a lot of crossover between basketball and football played as youth and even until college. The reason for this is because of the large amount of similar skills required in both sports to excel. While they do have important differences, the similarities are what set these athletes apart from one sport specialists. Here are a few of those similarities and how they can benefit each other mutually.


Basketball players hand and eye coordination is often exhibited with dribbling and passing a basketball. Passing and catching a basketball directly correlates with American Football. The skills necessary to correctly execute basketball passes are often seen in quarterbacks of football. The mechanics of the pass differ greatly, but the understanding of timing, spacing, strength, and ball placement is shown in both styles of pass. Catching a round ball is slightly different from the oblong ball used in football, but it is common knowledge that “If you got hands, you got hands”. This is evidenced by the large trend of basketball players who turn to football as receivers and tight ends because of their catching prowess.


Okay, so not ALL football players are in the incredible shape of most basketball players. The overall athleticism used in basketball can’t be rivaled by any sports, but it can make some great football players. Football players who excel in basketball tend to be on the freakish side in terms of American football. That football player who has a 44” vertical, 11’ broad jump and 6% body fat probably played some basketball at some point in their life. Playing basketball doesn’t produce these types of results in everyone, but it is possible so why not give it a try?


Are you naturally slow? Start playing basketball. I guarantee over time you will develop some speed, and not just from the weight you lose. Commonly called “jumping”, the bounding action used in basketball activates quick twitch muscles in your legs that are different than those used when sprinting. These muscles are used when you’re pushing against the ground in football, creating explosive force. This explosive force is the difference between most average and great football players.


When you play a pickup game of basketball do you have trouble guarding your man on defense? If so, you need more basketball in your life. Keeping up with the movement of another human without knowing where they are going is the ultimate test of reaction. In basketball, you will be tasked with learning different players’ physical tendencies and how to react to them to prevent them from being successful. In Football, there is a lot more space and predefined rules that prohibit players from being close to their opponents to the level of a basketball game. Therefore, a good football player will play basketball to work on their reaction skills and a good basketball player will play Football using their superior reaction skills to their benefit.

Chasing a man around a court isn’t the only reaction skill used defensively in basketball that helps a football player. Zone defense in basketball is the equivalent of zone defense in Football on steroids. In Basketball, zones are smaller and moved in and out of much more frequently than in football. If you can play good zone defense in Basketball, it makes Football zone defense easy as pie.


You want to get in shape? Play full court basketball games! Basketball is an ongoing sport where breaks are only given for fouls and timeouts. There is no standing around waiting for a play to start, you are in constant motion, whether that is walking, jogging, or sprinting repeatedly. The conditioning and stamina that Basketball builds is second to none and is why many the great ones have such awesome physiques. If you find yourself loafing on the gridiron, get into the gym and ramp up that conditioning!

Famous NFL and NBA players with Basketball and Football Backgrounds

Jimmy Graham – NFL Tight End

Photo Credit: Wall Street Journal

Jimmy Graham played college basketball for the Miami Hurricanes from 2005-2009. He stayed at Miami an additional year to play one season of football. This led to him being drafted 95th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.  Jimmy Graham is a 4-time Pro Bowl winner and led the NFL in touchdown receptions in 2013.

Lebron James – NBA Forward

Photo Credit: Open Stage Media

Lebron James played wide receiver for St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School football team. In his sophomore year he earned first team all-state honors, as a junior helped his team reach the state semifinals. In 2003, Lebron James was selected the #1 overall pick in the NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. James is the owner of numerous NBA awards including 13 NBA All Star appearances,  12-time All-NBA Team,  4-time NBA MVP, 3-time NBA Champion, and 2-time Associated Press Athlete of the Year.

Martellus Bennett – NFL Tight End

Photo Credit: Sport Betting Experts

Martellus Bennett played both basketball and football his first two years at Texas A&M University before deciding to focus strictly on football. A second round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2008, Bennett has one pro bowl appearance and is regarded as one of the best tight ends in the NFL.

Photo Credit: Hoops Video

Allen Iverson attended Bethel High School where he won Virginia State Championships in both football and basketball as a junior. He also earned the Associated Press High School Player of the Year award in both sports. Iverson was the first overall pick of the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1996 NBA Draft. From 1996 – 2010, Iverson accumulated many prestigious honors including 11 All Star appearances, 7 All-NBA Team awards,  4 scoring titles, and a NBA MVP award.

Julius Peppers – NFL Defensive End

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Perfect Pervis is a football enthusiast from Texas City, Texas. Perfect currently resides in Finland, playing & coaching American Football and writing a blog about the football culture in Europe.