BOSTON – Conor McGregor successfully crossed over from mixed martial arts to boxing Saturday night in what was the fight of the century (thus far) in terms of intrigue and attention.
That got us thinking here at Celtics.com: Which Celtics are best suited to cross over to another major pro sport in the US?
We’ve thought about it and compiled a list of some of the best options, accompanied by each player’s potential crossover sport and position, and you can find that list below. As a reminder, these players are not considering crossing over to another sport; these are merely hypothetical crossover options from our perspective.
Aron Baynes – Center
Crossover Options: Football (offensive line)
Aron Baynes measures in at 6-foot-10 and 260 pounds. He eats and works out to be a basketball player, but there’s no doubt that if he trained and ate to be a football player he could easily become a burly 300-pound wall of muscle. Such figures are mainstays in the NFL as offensive linemen. Baynes is an intuitive player with good athleticism for his size, and he has a mean streak. All of those traits would transfer over well to the most physical team sport the US has to offer: football.
Jaylen Brown – Shooting Guard/Small Forward
Crossover Options: Soccer (striker), Football (wide receiver)
Jaylen Brown is one of the most athletic players on Boston’s roster, so he would likely cross over well to a handful of sports. We’ve zeroed in on two, however: football and soccer. Brown is 6-foot-7, can jump out of a gym, he has soft hands, and he’s cerebral enough to read defenses. That’s a football coach’s dream when it comes to the wide receiver position. When it comes to the other football – soccer – Brown actually played that sport growing up. He always wanted to be a striker but was moved to defense. As he showed this offseason, however, he still has quite the foot to pop the ball into the back of the net.
Kyrie Irving – Point Guard
Crossover Options: Hockey (wing), Soccer (midfielder)
Kyrie Irving is one of the best one-on-one players in the NBA because he is incredibly shifty with an amazing handle. Boy, would those characteristics translate well to both soccer and hockey. One of the most important keys to success in soccer is being able to shake defenders with one-on-one moves and move past them for either a pass or a shot. That’s exactly what he does in the NBA. In hockey, his shiftiness would allow him to maneuver his way through the ice while avoiding defenders and collisions, likely for shots on goal. Irving might not have any foot or stick skills, but our bet is that if he trained them, he’d have the same type of handle with a soccer ball or a puck, and that would turn him into a serious threat on the pitch and/or on the ice.
Semi Ojeleye – Forward
Crossover Options: Football (defensive line, linebacker)
There are two players on Boston’s roster who are tailor-made to play on the interior of NFL defenses, and one of them is Semi Ojeleye. Ojeleye is 6-foot-6, weighs 240-plus pounds and has a wingspan of nearly 6-foot-10. NFL coaches would be salivating to get to work with him.. Two of the keys to dominating as a defensive lineman are strength and length. Ojeleye has both. Add in the fact that he’s very athletic and agile, and he’d have a shot at being the tallest linebacker around, which would be quite the disruption for quarterbacks’ vision over the middle. Something tells us he wouldn’t mind the collision aspect of the sport, either. Ojeleye is one tough – and big – guy who loves to play defense.
Terry Rozier – Point Guard
Crossover Options: Baseball (center field), Football (secondary)
Terry Rozier is one heck of an athlete. He’s quick, and he’s fast, and those two traits translate very well to playing defense in center field or being flanked on the edge of a field in a one-on-one situation against a wide receiver. Rozier is a very good defender in the NBA, and that requires great instincts and reactions. Tracking fly balls in centerfield of a baseball diamond, and tracking wide receivers on the football field, require the exact same skills. It also wouldn’t hurt on the football side of things that Rozier has a bit of a mean streak; he wouldn’t mind the contact, and he’d certainly love taking out players who have the football in their hands. From a baseball perspective, similar to Irving and a hockey stick, we don’t know how well Rozier would handle a bat, but his defense would undoubtedly be superb.
Marcus Smart – Guard
Crossover Options: MMA Fighter
Many fans just paid $100 to order and watch the fight between McGregor and Mayweather Saturday night. How much would you pay to watch a scrappy bulldog like Smart jump into the octagon with an MMA fighter? Smart had a tough upbringing in Dallas and he prides himself on the toughness he gained from those youthful years; it helped to make him who he is today. He bothers opposing players in the NBA because he’s so tough, and because he doesn’t care what the opposition thinks. He’s going to go at the opponent as hard as the rules allow him to every single time he takes the court. He’d be the exact same guy in an octagon, except he’d be attacking an opponent with punches and kicks rather than with physical defense and ball handling. And something tells us that he’d be able to take a lick or two on the chops as well, which is a very important part of being a successful MMA fighter.
Guerschon Yabusele – Forward
Crossover Options: Football (defensive line, linebacker)
We said earlier that there were two Celtics players who would crossover well to the interior of an NFL team’s defense. Ojeleye was the first; Yabusele is the second. Yabusele is like a bigger, stronger version of Ojeleye. Let’s put it this way: no offensive player would enjoy seeing big Yabu, strapped in shoulder pads and a helmet, coming at them to take them out. And with Yabusele’s impressive feet and length, there’s no doubt that he’d transfer over well to one of America’s top sports. Yabusele is a gentle giant based upon all of our encounters with him thus far, but maybe he has a mean streak that would carry his incredible size and athleticism to greatness on the defensive side of a football field.