Love the column and the podcast – read/listen religiously.
I used to play soccer in college. I’m just stating so you can see i have some credibility to what i’m about to say.
I had to write because one thing is driving me crazy. You and others keep claiming that Lebron James and other NBA stars like Dwight Howard would be amazing on the soccer field. See your recent podcast with Chris Collinsworth (here). These players are incredible athletes but this is just not the case, and anyone who has played soccer would know that if you see a 6′ 8″ guy playing against you, you would be psyched. There is no way, no matter how athletically talented they are, that would be good players. This is due to 2 main reasons: (1) foot size and (2) quickness.
To shoot or hit a long ball well, you need to hit the soccer ball with your instep, which is the top of your foot. People with big feet are notoriously bad at kicking a ball far and accurately. It’s possible, but if you’re huge (over 6’5″) it would be super tough. Quickness is another issue. Being fast on your first 3 steps is so crucial to a soccer player. You see it all the time at the top of the box, where a player is trying to get just a little bit of space to get a shot off. The bigger you are, the less quick you are. Think of Lebron trying to guard the quickest point guards all day. It wouldn’t go that well.
For both of these reasons, if you’re super small and really quick you can be the best player in the world. See Messi and Maradona (both 5’5″-ish). If you’re gigantic, you probably won’t be.
BUT, i do agree with your general idea that if the best players in America played soccer, we’d dominate. In fact, in 2006 i made up the US starting 11 if we had our pick of the best players and they were super fast, strong and quick dudes (Barry Sanders would have been ideal). That post is here
Anyway, please don’t say anymore how good of a soccer player Lebron would be. It drives me nuts.
Thanks and keep on kicking ass –