When Wilt Chamberlain strolled onto to the beach to play volleyball after his NBA career, it was considered a novelty.
But Chamberlain was serious about his new pastime, entering just about any tournament he could find along a stretch of Southern California beaches. Of course, he also had 20,000 reasons for heading onto the beach, but that’s another sport.
It made many wonder what might have happened if he had taken up the sport much earlier in life, say, while the 7-foot-1 legend was also running track and field at Kansas University.
Volleyball and basketball, of course, are cousins in the sports world. They demand dexterity and jumping on the physical side, as well as defensive and offensive strategy with split-second decisions to be made.
There are many connections to beach volleyball and basketball, although the assumption is that more volleyball players play basketball than vice versa.
Mike Dodd and Mike Whitmarsh were both NBA draft picks of the San Diego Clippers back in the day before they teamed up to win an Olympic silver medal in Atlanta in 1996.
A kid named Dain Blanton led his Laguna Beach High team into the playoffs, though everyone knew he was on his way to Pepperdine for volleyball, eventually securing a gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Currently, the best example is Chase Budinger. Before he accepted a basketball scholarship from Arizona, which led to a seven-year career in the NBA, he led La Costa Canyon High to three consecutive state championships in volleyball. He is now a rising star on the AVP Tour with Casey Patterson.
That brings us to the ultimate crossover dribble. Which NBA players could step on the sand and make an impact? No doubt it would be a multitude, but there’s something tricky about burying your feet in the sand and then doing something athletic if one has not grown up with sand under their feet.
That’s clear when NBA stars D’Angelo Russell and Karl Anthony Towns hit Venice Beach with AVP stars April Ross, Lauren Fendrick, and Geena Urango.
The basketball stars got worked of course, yet there was progress made as they began to unravel their new craft.
“I think if you gave us a few weeks together, we could do it,” Russell said.
Can the AVP make a dream team, or at least a wish list, of NBA talent that could compete? Let’s start with the no-brainers.
The Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, is the obvious choice for dominance at the net. He’d have a little help from his girlfriend, Maya Riddlesprigger, who played collegiately at Rice University.
The Curry family, Stephen and Seth, are often seen displaying some volleyball moves. Their mother, Sonya, was a standout in volleyball at Virginia and could certainly provide some tips on defending.
In volleyball, you need the leapers. Two-time NBA Slam Dunk champ Zach LaVine would give any blocker headaches on sideout after sideout.
Luke Walton and Richard Jefferson are beach denizens (two more former Arizona basketball stars), and Walton dragged Blake Griffin down to the beach to be immersed in the culture.
The most intriguing matchup for anyone would be to have Russell Westbrook on the other side of the net. Maybe Taylor Crabb’s newfound stare-down would not be quite as effective in that matchup.
Oh, and LeBron James? We’ll let him be the NFL’s best tight end who never played. But that’s another crossover story.