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Oregon football players as NBA stars: A comprehensive breakdown (Part 2)



This post is a continuation of a previous entry creatively devised by my editor Patrick Malee. As he explained so eloquently in his introduction, in about a week the Emerald sports desk will be treated to a delicious blend of two of our favorite things in the world: NBA basketball and the Rose Bowl. To celebrate this beautiful marriage, we’ve identified NBA counterparts for some of the Ducks’ most notable players. While football and basketball inhabit different spheres in the sporting landscape, we feel there are indelible traits that translate from the gridiron to the hardwood.

Patrick broke down Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, De’Anthony Thomas, David Paulson and Dion Jordan. I’ve unearthed representative ballers for my own quartet of Oregon players.

Cliff Harris is…Stephon Marbury (point guard, Boston Celtics)

What’s that? Cliff Harris got kicked off the team? Well that’s fine; Stephon Marbury left the Celtics for the “greener pastures” of the Chinese Basketball Association. Doesn’t that kind of defeat the whole point of this column? Probably. Too bad — I’m still going with it.

Both of these players were gifted with speed and elusiveness that made them standouts despite their diminutive nature. Harris was an athletic, versatile playmaker who threatened to go the distance every time he touched the ball. Marbury was a dazzling ball handler who could drop a dime, stroke a three, or break your ankles. And while both reached the pinnacle (Harris was an All-American, Marbury a two-time All-Star) their shortcomings kept them from ever reaching their full potential.

Harris was a journalist’s dream and provided multiple legendary quotes, but eventually his goofiness morphed into self-absorption and immaturity. Also, he had one nagging habit that kept him off the field. Starbury was similarly legendary for his own cockiness and greed. He feuded with teammates and earned a one-way ticket out of town multiple times due to erratic, self-destructive behavior. Also, he may have been less than sober in a few inappropriate situations (either that or his one year at Georgia Tech didn’t serve him too well).

John Boyett is…Gerald Wallace (forward, Portland Trail Blazers)

Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti once described Boyett as, “an athletic junkie. He’s like a basketball gym rat, which is a compliment, but only on the football field.” In fact, watching Boyett hurdle his body around in the secondary, I have often marveled at his ability to stay healthy. He treats his helmet like a freakin’ battering ram. It’s a minor miracle that he’s made it through three seasons at Oregon without any kind of significant injury. Though Boyett is usually short-winded with the media, he’s definitely a leader on defense. If you glimpse at him before almost any snap, you’re nearly certain to see him shouting directions or helping line up a teammate.

Like Boyett, Gerald Wallace’s playing style could be described as controlled chaos. His hardheaded, brash approach to the game earned him the nickname “Crash.” It’s also helped him procure four concussions, a broken rib and a collapsed lung. Similar to Boyett, Wallace is a teammate who is short on words but who fires up teammates with gritty steals and high-flying blocks. In short, he leads by example. He’s revered by the fantasy basketball community for being one of the only players to dominate any of the hustle categories (rebounds, steals, blocks) on a given night. Basically he’s a “gamer,” whatever the hell that means (oh, the ambiguity of sports lexicon).

Both of these players are also underrated. Boyett has yet to make first team all-conference while Wallace is rarely mentioned among the game’s great defenders despite his impressive resume.

Boseko Lokombo is…Rudy Gay (forward, Memphis Grizzlies)

Lokombo is the dark horse of Oregon’s defense. He seems to always be in the right place at the right time. Whether it’s a fumble recovery, a sack or a pick-six, Bo always seems to make a timely big play. Lokombo is probably the most underrated athlete on the Oregon team. He stands 6-foot-3, 232 pounds and led all linebackers with a 330-pound power clean, a 2.84-second electronic 20-yard and a 4.84-second electronic 40-yard during winter conditioning.

Rudy Gay is also often overlooked, yet highly valuable. He was taken eighth in a shallow NBA Draft in 2006 and was traded, along with Stromile Swift, for Shane Battier (No, I didn’t make that up). He was simply never hyped as a future force in the NBA. He also displays sneaky athleticism and has led the Memphis Grizzlies to relevance, which is an accomplishment in itself. Like Lokombo, he’s a powerful physical force that is appreciated by those he’s closest too (he recently signed an $82 million extension) but underrated by outsiders.

Carson York is…Derek Fisher (point guard, Los Angeles Lakers)

York is one of the most well rounded players on the Oregon football team. He’s a top-notch blocker on one of the best offensive lines in the nation and made the All-Pac-10 first team in 2010. He’s sold in the passing game and running game. More importantly, he’s got a head on his shoulders. York has accumulated numerous all-conference academic honors as an advertising major. He’s a good interview and is very patient with the media (because, in an odd way, he is one of us). He’s also bridged multiple eras in Oregon football. He was in Eugene for the transition from Mike Bellotti to Chip Kelly. He witnessed the rises and demises of LeGarrette and Jeremiah Masoli. He’s now a senior leader on a team led by an entirely different cast.

Derek Fisher is also viewed as a heady athlete. In fact, he’s so respected for his smarts that he was elected as the primary player representative during the last round of collective bargaining negotiations for the NBA. While the lockout represents one of the darker periods in sports in recent memory, that’s still worth something. Fisher also bridged multiple eras on a successful team. He was in tinsel town for the first incarnation of the L.A. Lakers dynasty, led by a youthful Shaquille O’Neal, an up-and-coming Kobe Bryant and a cast of likeable role players (Robert Horry, Rick Fox, Brian Shaw). After leaving the team shortly, Fisher returned to the Lakers for their second championship run centered on Kobe, Paul Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom.


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