If NBA superstars picked soccer instead

Remember back in November of 2016 when the United States Soccer Federation began slowly and aggressively inserting a sharp, slopily-dressed, fat-Taylor-Negron looking (amazing reference) unlubed dagger into the hearts of the loyal US Soccer fans? And remember in October of 2017 when that said dagger, commonly known as Bruce Arena, was jostled around inside every American Outlaws’ carotid artery, and pulled out with one swift motion, all while leaving an entire fanbase for dead? I do. I remember it. That dismal, woefully forgotten, 11-month period in which qualifying for the World Cup took a backseat to redeeming ourselves in CONCACAF’s own Gold Cup, winning it for the sixth time.

At the time, words could not express the frustration and disbelief that fell upon the nation’s diehard soccer fans. For the first time in 32-years, and the first time in every millennial supporters lifetime, there would not be a United States mens team represented in the most prestigious soccer tournament (and possibly sporting event) in the entire world. (Do you like parentheticals? Am I using them too much? This is only the third time. Brace yourselves. It’s a long ride.)

Problem solved. I fixed it. Because THIS IS AMERICA AND WE DESERVE TO WIN EVERYTHING AND OUR ATHLETES ARE THE BEST AND IF WE CAN’T BEAT ‘EM THEN WE PULL A KEVIN DURANT AND FORM A SUPER TEAM AND JOIN THEM!! (To cut short any anticipation: Kevin Durant is not on THIS super team. They do not need to add another great person to a great team because they are already great. Do you get it, Oakland?)

America needs a World Cup team. Technically, we need a World Cup do-over, buuuuuut that’s in the past. It’s time to move forward and move on. It’s time to put away my sex-doll with Christian Pulisic’s face taped on it back into the locked treasure chest underneath my bed. Our soccer players stupid coaches and management couldn’t get it done, so instead, we must create an elite, all-mighty, super powerful, team to dominate all other 31 countries competing for the FIFA World Cup trophy. It’s time to create our very own USA World Cup team made up entirely of NBA players.

First let’s go over the rules and guidelines and logistics on how this team will be formed:

  • We will be using a standard 4-4-2 formation (a goal keeper, four defensive players, four midfield players, two attacking forwards)
  • Each 11 positions will have the main starter and a back-up (kind of like the understudy in a Broadway production). Back-up players are different from reserves just so I could include more players. Duh.
  • The players have to be from the United States. (Mildly unfortunate. How great would it be if Giannis Antetokounmpo was on this team?? It’s too bad Greece isn’t in the World Cup. They could’ve signed him just for the hell of it. Should there be an international NBA World Cup team??)
  • Current players as of the 2018 season only (Can you imagine Shaq playing goalie?)
  • Team USA will be replacing Costa Rica. Group E is now Brazil, Switzerland, USA, and Serbia.
  • Positions: GK-goal-keeper. LB-left defensive back. RB-right defensive back. CB-central defensive back. LM- left midfield. RM-right midfield. CM-central midfield.   F-forward.
  • We are pretending that all of the players are magically good at soccer because they are elite athletes, and probably somehow are actually really good at soccer. Or we can pretend they stole the combined talents of every single best player ever, and harnessed the energy in a glowing soccer ball, very ‘Monstars’ like, all while those players get to retain their own talents to make it fair. Either way, their skills translate to the pitch.
  • Finally, and most importantly, we are all here to have fun. JUST KIDDING! WE’RE GOING TO RIP THE WORLD’S HEARTS OUT OF THEIR BODIES AND FEED THEM TO WOLVES!! ANARCHY!!
  • Position: Name, Height in ft. (meters), hometown, overall rating out of 99

There we have it. The guidelines are set, and it’s time to construct a team of winners. A team destined for World Cup greatness. Here I present to you:

THE USA WORLD CUP REPLACEMENT TEAM THAT IS ACTUALLY PROBABLY BETTER AND SCARIER AND FASTER!

STARTERS:

  • GK: LeBrarcus Anthony-Davis, 6’10” (2.08m), A Crazy Science Lab, NY., 97.
    • This is the one and only hybrid player on the team. A combination of LeBron James, LaMarcus Aldridge, Karl Anthony-Towns, and Anthony Davis. I couldn’t pick just one of them to be the keeper of goals, and this is my fantasy, so, ‘MERICA!
    • When they stole the talents from the keepers around the world, they ended up stealing from David de Gea of Spain, Thibaut Courtois of Belgium, Manuel Neuer of Germany and Hugo Lloris of France. They didn’t realize that these four goal keepers combined would turn into one super mighty morphing soccer goalie.
    • The average height of a professional soccer goalie is 6’1″ (1.87m). Our four-man hybrid is already nine(!) whole inches taller than the AVERAGE keeper. Do you think he would allow ANY GOALS AT ALL??
    • Reach and defensively minded play all come in huge for this world class goal keeper. Go ahead Brazil, try to swing a corner kick over the middle of the goalie box. Just don’t get upset when Neymar gets punched in the chin by LeBrarcus’ fists of fury and ends up in a coma. We warned you.
  • LB: Meyers Leonard, 7’1″ (2.16m), Robinson, IL., 81
    • There is a tie for the tallest soccer player in the world at 6’10” (2.08m). One of them is a striker, the other a goalie. The third tallest is 6’9″ (2.05m), also a goalie. That means that two of the other tallest players in the world would never even be on the same side of the pitch as Leonard. Also, out of the top 10 tallest players in the world, zero of them are in this years World Cup.
    • A giant clearing away headers and towering over a 5’7″ Lionel Messi, while having the presence of an elm tree that suddenly sprouted roots and grew in the middle of the field? Yea, I’ll take that.
    • HE’S SEVEN FEET AND ONE INCH TALL! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT!?
  • CB: Draymond Green, 6’7″ (2.01m), Saginaw, MI., 87
    • Remember that one time on the biggest stage in basketball when the biggest star in basketball got his nuts kicked by the biggest dick in basketball? Well now we have the same thing, except he’s going to be kicking other big named foreign guys’ nuts while ¼ of the aforementioned nut-kickee stands behind him in goal.
    • A former defense player of the year, a 4x all-defense player (3-first team), and one unfortunately leaked snap chat photo (Thought about linking this. Didn’t. Look it up if you want. It’s NSFW BTW). All that plus the aggression of a lose tiger on cocaine that was bitten by a werewolf. Draymond would destroy the likes of Luka Modric trying to come anywhere near the box.
    • To support him, the Outlaws would sing Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” but instead of saying dream-on they sing “Dray-mond” to the same tune. He falls in love with it, and ends up switching sports and winning every league cup there is.
  • CB: Myles Turner, 6’11” (2.11m), Bedford, TX., 79
    • A man who averages nearly two blocks per game in a league full of giant people, has to do well in a tournament full of not giant people. That’s logic.
    • Keep him on the defensive side for the most part. Bring him in for headers in crunch time. Win-win.
    • He has kind of cool, African-soccer-player-like hair already. He’ll fit in great.
  • RB: Mason/Miles Plumlee, 6’11” (2.11m), Fort Wayne, IN., 76
    • This isn’t a back-up situation, but more of a “Parent Trap” situation. Sometimes Mason plays, sometimes Miles plays. No one knows the difference. It’s the same thing. You get the same result. A tall white guy playing defense. Boom.
  • LM: Dejounte Murray, 6’5″ (1.96m), Seattle, WA. 83
    • Baby Boy here is a “good, not great” defender, but he’s absolutely perfect for the left wing. He will easily clog up the passing lanes with his speed and knack for steals (he was 5th in the NBA in steal percentage for the 2017-18 season).
    • Fun fact: point-guard is Spanish for left midfielder. I think. So, perfect fit.
    • Dejounte is a very international-soccer-like name as well. Is he French? Columbian? Nigerian (not racist)? Hell no.  Straight out of Rainier Beach, son!
  • CM: Jared Dudley (Captain), 6’7″ (2.01m), San Diego, CA., 84
    • What do you get when you mix an 11-year veteran with five different franchises? I’m not really sure, but that’s who Jared Dudley is. A journeyman. That’s why he’s the captain. It’s a terrible reason, but so is having Draymond Green play soccer, so whatever.
    • He’s liked by players, coaches and fans alike. He’s from San Diego and went to college in Boston; he definitely knows soccer.
    • His intelligence alone will boost the midfield to its full potential. Unlike one current midfield player whose name I won’t say (it rhymes with Schmicael Shmradley), Dudley has the IQ needed to create goals, and produce crisp and accurate passes into the attacking third.
    • Also, he plays in Phoenix so they would for sure call him “El Capitan de la Sol.”
  • CM: Rajon Rondo, 6’1″ (1.85m), Louisville, KY., 82
    • Remember that one scene in Tarzan when Kala – Tarzan’s gorilla mom – holds up her enormous gorilla hand and compares it to Tarzan’s not-at-all-close-to-being-enormous human hand, and then proceeds to throw her own feces at him? (I may have made that last part up). Well…Rondo is Kala in this metaphor (also not racist). He has enormous hands. Have you seen them? They’re like Buster Bluth’s fake robot hand from Arrested Development. Only there’s two of them. And they’re real!
    • But you can’t use your hands in soccer…
    • Oh, hmm…well…then…should we bench him?
    • Nah, we’ll be good. Our goalie is the Megatron of basketball players, and our shortest defender is 6’7″ and has a short fuse. All aboard the Rondo Train, TOOT TOOT!
    • (Hey, why didn’t you make one of your dumb play-on-word jokes involving his initials being RR and the Rondo Train? You really missed the boat on that one.)
  • RM: Gordon Hayward, 6’8″ (2.03m), Indianapolis, IN., 88
    • EVERY SOCCER TEAM NEEDS A SEX ICON
    • Look at those beautiful baby blues. That gorgeous smile. That chiseled jaw line. The non-douchy-douche-bag hair-do. He’s our David Beckham. Our Christiano Ronaldo.
    • Also he’s 6’8″ and that’s good for headers.
  • F: DeMar DeRozan, 6’7″ (2.01m), Compton, CA., 87
    • Do you know who Peter Crouch is? He’s an English soccer player most notably known for playing for Stoke City in the English Premier League. Another fact about him: he and DeMar are the exact same height. One more fact about him: his nickname is the gentle giant because he is taller than everyone and scores a lot of goals off headers and also WITHOUT LETTING IT HIT THE GROUND!!
    • DeMar DeRozan can do stuff like this.
    • I’ll take a guy who can jump right out of the gym and is also the same height as an Englishman who towers over everybody else on my offense. Yes please.
  • F: Donovan Mitchell, 6’3″ (1.91m), Greenwich, CT., 85
    • *Goes under my bed. Unlocks my treasure chest. Removes picture of Pulisic from sex doll. Prints out Donovan Mitchell’s face. Puts it on to sex doll.*
    • This team needs a young, super star talent, and Mitchell is the perfect fit. In his first year in the league he proved he belongs, very Pulisic-esque. Now translate that energy to the soccer pitch and watch him stride around with the grace of a figure skater.
    • They’re already basically best friends.
    • He can also jump out of the gym. The current dunk contest champion will figuratively and (hopefully) literally put his nut sack into the faces of defenders such as Vincent Kompany or Thiago Silva, and score breathtaking headers. He will receive the Golden Boot of the tournament.

BACKUPS:

  • GK: DeAndre Jordan, 6’11” (2.11m), Houston, TX., 82
    • He’s a shot blocking machine (at least he should be).
    • Put him in goal. Or rotate him with one of the other giants. He’s 6’11”.
  • LB: Marcus Morris, 6’9″ (2.06m), Philadelphia, PA., 79
    • He’s aggressive, gritty, and talks a lot of shit
    • Would 100% frighten Jamie Vardy
  • CB: Cody Zeller, 7’0″ (2.13m), Washington, IN., 83
    • I needed a big large white dude, so he made the cut. (Over Ryan Anderson, thankfully. Whose face would you much rather punch?)
  • CB: DeMarcus Cousins, 6’11” (2.11m), Mobile, AL., 90
    • He’s the best understudy on the roster, and probably the “one mistake” I would make as manager by not starting him. “HOW COULD YOU SIT OUT DEMARCUS! FIRE GILBERT! FIRE GILBERT!”
  • RB: Hassan Whiteside, 7’0″ (2.13m), Gastonia, NC., 81
    • The man averages 2.5 blocks for his career. Put him on the defensive end with his hands tied behind his back, and he’d probably still average at least 2.3 blocks per game.
    • He’d be the underdog story of the tournament. One of the Plumlees will most definitely get mistaken for an American spy, be captured by the Russian mafia, and tortured for information. It would be Mason first, then he would snitch on Miles. They would both be killed. Come game time when neither Plumlees are anywhere to be seen, we welcome Hassan. The hero we deserve.
  • LM: Lance Stephenson, 6’5″ (1.96m), Brooklyn, NY., 74
    • It’s the 89th minute of the quarterfinal. 2-2 game (DeAndre was starting in goal just for fun. REFIRE GILBERT!). USA has a corner kick. Mats Hummels is guarding Lance Stephenson. Jared Dudley at the left flag pole ready to swing in the pass. He lifts up his arm. Stephenson blows on Hummels face. Hummels is distracted. The ball finds Lance’s head. GOALASOOOOOOOO!
  • CM: Sam Dekker, 6’9″ (2.06m), Sheboygan, WI., 72
    • What’s soccer without a little racism, am I right Sam Dekkker? (whoops, typo)
  • CM: Bradley Beal, 6’5″ (1.96m), St. Louis, MO., 81
    • It was between him and Jrue Holiday. Bradley was taller. Bradley gets the nod.
    • He’s the real deal.
  • RM: James Johnson, 6’9″ (2.06m), Cheyenne, WY., 77
    • It took me longer than eight minutes to delete the name Ron Baker from this position and insert James Johnson’s. Just thought you should know I did the right thing
    • James Johnson is trained in mixed martial arts. Ron Baker is not.
    • James Johnson has a neck tattoo. Ron Baker eats cashews (probably).
    • James Johnson once watched his mother throw a knife at his brother! Ron Baker’s mother still cuts his grilled cheese sandwiches into quarters for him (definitely).
  • F: Kevin Love, 6’10” (2.08m), Santa Monica, CA., 82
    • If DeMar for some reason couldn’t play (most likely because Kevin Love and 25% of LeBron are there to sweep him off his feet (boom, roasted the Raptors)) then how about adding three more inches in height and 47 more inches in head width to the offensive end?
    • His uncle is a Beach Boy. “I Get Around” would be the team’s theme song.
  • F: James Harden, 6’5″ (1.96m), Los Angeles, CA., 93
    • James Harden is the only player who is going to be a back-up and a reserve. He’s find a way to play one way or anther.
    • His excellent flopping skills translate well for soccer. He can switch to midfield and attempt to get every opposing player a yellow card.
    • Gerard Piqué will turn jealous of Harden’s beard, causing Shakira to leave him, fall in love with James Harden, and break Piqué’s heart and spirits. That in return will cause a chain reaction throughout the entire Spanish defense, knocking them out of the World Cup earlier than expected. They will be the laughing stock of the Iberian Peninsula.

RESERVES:

  • GK: None. LeBrarcus Anthony-Davis never gets hurt or tired. DeAndre Jordan only plays when LAD needs to recharge rest.
  • LB: Dwight Howard (ugh), Zach LaVine
  • CB: Vince Carter (veteran presence), Aaron Gordon, Brook/Robin Lopez (parent trap situation)
  • RB: Blake Griffin (he always gets hurt), Markieff Morris (the not as good twin), Andre Drummond (has never made a penalty kick)
  • LM: Chandler Parsons, JJ Reddick, Any other white guy
  • CM: Jeremy Lin, Russell Westbrook, Richard Jefferson (he’d just be content traveling with the team)
  • RM: Eric Gordon, Victor Oladipo, Dennis Smith Jr.
  • F: Klay Thompson, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Korver

MANAGER:

  • Gregg Popovich
    • Duh

Our first game in the group stage is against Serbia [my third favorite -bians (first being les-, second being amphi-)].; a team not so far from home, but not so close to being anywhere near able to stop the American team. Their best players, defender and captain Aleksandar Kolorov (6’2″) and midfielder Nemanja Matic (6’4″), stand no chance.

And so the story begins. With the team built, the players ready, and the entire world shivering in their boots, the only thing left to say is: LET’S DO THAT SOCCER!

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Jason Gilbert was born in White Plains, NY and lives in Louisville, KY. NBA specialty with a large focus on statistics and analytics. Also a huge soccer and golf fan. He studied journalism at Ball State University and communications at the University of Louisville. He has a comedic writing style combined with factual information. Nets, Yankees, Louisville Cardinals, Manchester United, US Soccer, LeBron

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