What does a football analytics company do on slack on a Thursday afternoon when there are no games to speak of? Why talk about basketball of course. Well, not just basketball. The question that arose was who would you pick to compete in a combined basketball and five-a-side match. That is, first the teams played football, then basketball, then if they split those two matches, they’d have a shootout to as a tiebreaker to determine the overall winner. Ultimately we decided to make draft lists. So, four StatsBomb experts (I use the term extremely loosely here) made their top ten lists of who they’d like to run out on the the court/pitch for such a hypothetical competition, complete with their reasoning. So, down below you’ll find the lists of CEO Ted Knutson, StatsBomb South head honcho, Ali Elfakharany, CCO, Shergul Arshad and general man about analysis town, Euan Dewar. You should feel free to find all of them on twitter and tell them why they’re wrong. Also feel free to figure out your own teams and tell us why you’re right. And now, without further ado, the lists. Ted Knutson
2) Giannis “The Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo I think a lot of people will have Giannis as their number 1, and it just makes sense. He’s definitely in the top 5 NBA players in any particular year and he’s at least had some exposure to juggling the ball. However, having seen enough clips of him interacting with a soccer ball, I’m fairly comfortable that Embiid is the better number one overall.
Ali Elfakharany Despite the fact that the tiebreak is football-related, my train of thought was to mainly pick basketball players for a couple of reasons:
- Football is more popular globally so it’s easier to find base level football skills
- Basketball is more unique physically and so it’s harder to find basketball physique!
- Big basketball players might make good goalkeepers for the shootout
- Absolute domination matters for mental purposes
- Most StatsBomb folks don’t know basketball as well as I do
Without further ado, my list: 1) Joel Embiid The Process is the perfect fit for this sport. A 7’2 foot center with the best low post moves since Hakeem, who is also a magnificent trash talker that grew up in football-crazy Cameroon? Sign me up. Jojo will dunk all over these tiny footballers, and trash-talk them so badly all their penalties will look like that famous Sergio Ramos penalty that ended up orbiting the moon. And he may foul out the entire team before we even get to the shootout. Joel is also the most entertaining guy in sports, and he’ll make sure we have no problems selling this event out. Just think of all the Spanish/Portugese he’ll learn just to mess with Cristiano and Messi. If you need visual evidence, a quick Youtube search will show his spot-kick prowess, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X27obRcPLFI and him driving poor Andre Drummond crazy with his antics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miN7g6iEmeo 2) Giannis Antetokounmpo The reigning NBA MVP and probable best player in the world is another obvious pick. African heritage but born and raised in Europe sounds like a football star (Zidane, Mbappe) and a quick Youtube search shows the Greek Freak has some serious football skills. Giannis will bring his trademark enthusiasm and competitiveness to the team, and will probably spend the entirety of the competition mean mugging all these soft European football players. 3) Romelu Lukaku 6’3 and heavier than Russel Westbrook – will be able to keep up physically in both sports. 4) Luka Doncic Luka’s IQ, footwork, and skill ability translate beautifully between both sports. He will reign threes on the football players all while looking very relatable athletically, and then bust out a couple of penalty saves with training from his countryman Samir Handanović 5) Pau Gasol Friends with a lot of football players 6) Zlatan Ibrahimović 6’5, a kung-fu background, supreme ball skills and the OG football trash talker. 7) Antoine Griezmann Obsessed with the NBA and seems to have a 3 point shot 8) Pique A very tall and skilful football player with connections to other sports 9) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPQQRwD3j9A 10) Cristiano Ronaldo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AunImole9HI Euan Dewar My assumption is that a team of all-footballers/all-basketball players would decimate any opposing team that has even one player who is not playing their preferred sport. The basketball players aren’t going to suddenly all turn into Ronaldinho, the football players aren’t all going to start hitting three-pointers against NBA-level defence (or even in an empty gym). If this didn’t have the penalty shootout aspect I would have gone with solely NBA players. My thinking is that it’s extremely hard to imagine footballers lucking in to even a few buckets against a team of NBA players, but a team of NBA players maybe nicking a goal in a 5-a-side, I think that’s easier to imagine. Think of Lebron James trucking some dude off the ball and then finding Russell Westbrook with a pass who zooms down with it and scores. Not super likely, but you can see it happening right? Only there is a penalty shootout involved here, so I’m punting the basketball side and going with only football players. Penalty-taking is a relatively simplistic skill in raw terms – you have much less to consider than you do in open play. But it is still a skill where you can see differences in execution across various levels of talent. NBA players, while immensely gifted, are still miles off of elite footballers in performing football actions. Therefore I want the best footballers so we can crush them in the football match, knowingly get our arses handed to us in the basketball game, and then breeze through the shootout. The more weak links we have (i.e, NBA players) in that segment the worse off we’d be. 1) Lionel Messi Obvious choice. Ironically, he may actually be a weakness in the shootout given recent penalty history, but I am assuming that wouldn’t be a huge problem in this scenario. 2) Jan Oblak To truly tighten the noose, a wall of a goalkeeper is also needed. Instead of picking a goalkeeper with a noted penalty-saving record (alhough I will do later) I’m going with probably just the best shot-stopper around. Trusting too much in penalty-saving sample sizes when selecting for this seems foolhardy. Also maybe he can get a layup, who knows. 3) Virgil van Dijk Has all you need in terms of awareness and physical traits to shore up the defense, all while being lovely in-possession too. 4) Kylian Mbappe Good luck. 5) Arturo Vidal My one fear in the football match is that a given NBA player of the requisite size could just ease smaller footballers off the ball (especially if this is FIFA Street rules). WIth that in mind, a big enforcer is needed. VvD fills a big chunk of this need. Vidal is past his prime but still has plenty of skill and, importantly, is a combative bugger with the build to back it up. 6) Josip Iličić Why not make the whole plane out of Messis? 7) Idrissa Gueye Could also absolutely tear shit apart. 8) David de Gea Slumping as of late but no reason to believe as of yet that it’s a permanent drop-off. Probably still unbeatable in this environment. 9) Robert Lewandowski If I were to go with a purer-striker it’d have to Lewy. 10) Simon Mignolet Apparently he has a good penalty-saving record on a bigger sample size than most other goalkeepers. Maybe that means something. If not, well I feel he is owed some slack for all the abuse he has received over the years. Namaste.