Pick Six: Best basketball players in the NFL

The NBA All-Star Game is here in Los Angeles,  and for those of us who trudged through the snow in Dallas for the Super Bowl, there is a certain satisfaction with having our NBA counterparts deal with the rain here in town (enjoy the 10-110 interchange near Staples Center, out-of-town motorists).

Not surprisingly, a number of current NFL stars are in town to take in the festivities. And after those guys have a few belts at the TGI Friday’s at L.A. Live, there is no doubt that many arguments will ensue about just who is the best basketball player in the NBA.

Tony Gonzalez was part of the University of California men's basketball team that advanced to the Sweet 16 in 1997. (John Bazemore/Associated Press)

Pivoting off that, I’m here to help put to rest another topic: the top six basketball players in the NFL right now.

6. Antwaan Randle El
This spot was originally reserved for Donovan McNabb, who spent two seasons as a reserve guard at Syracuse. But, in concert with coach Mike Shanahan, conditioning is going to be an issue. So the nod goes to Randle El, who played under coach Bob Knight at Indiana. Don’t agree? Well, ask yourself this question: If you were playing pickup and had to chose between McNabb and Randle El, who would you pick?

5. Terrell Owens
Owens played at Tennessee-Chattanooga, and he has gained some juice by playing in all of those celebrity games. He also had a brief stint in the U.S. Basketball League, although getting dunked on like he did here keeps him near the bottom of this list. Posterized.

4. Jimmy Graham
Graham was never much of a scorer, but he was a keen rebounder and one of the top shot blockers during his career at the University of Miami. In fact, Graham ranks eighth in school history in blocks (108). You need to give love for those role-playing guys like Graham, and you can bet he would take most of the current NFL stars one-on-one.

3. Julius Peppers
Peppers was a sixth-man for a pretty good basketball program. You might have heard of it — North Carolina. Peppers averaged 7.1 points and four rebounds per game off the bench, which isn’t bad. But for the athleticism, you would probably like to see some better rebounding numbers.

2. Tony Gonzalez
Gonzalez averaged 6.8 points and 5.4 rebounds for California during his junior season, as the Golden Bears advanced all the way to the Sweet 16 in 1997. Gonzalez is one of the more celebrated former hoops players-turned NFL players, and he has shown that he can still get up while dunking footballs over a goal posts after he scores. But he doesn’t get the top spot here.

1. Antonio Gates
You might have never heard this before if you have ever watched a Chargers game on television, but Gates played basketball at Kent State. Oh, that’s right, it’s the only thing they ever talk about. Gates and the Golden Flashes advanced to the Elite 8 in 2002, while he averaged 16 points per game. He averaged 20.6 points per game the following year. Yeah, this is a no-doubter.

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