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Which NBA players have ability to play in Super Bowl? 02.07.16 at 8:47 am ET
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“Who the [expletive] is gonna stop this basketball player?” three-time Super Bowl champion and current Houston Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel shouted.

As I was preparing to call a Penn State basketball game earlier this year for ESPN, I came across the bio of a former Penn State basketball player that caught my eye. Ross Travis, who stands 6-foot-7, 235 pounds, was the starting forward for Penn State the previous season, averaging five points and six boards per game. After not touching a football since the ninth grade, Travis found himself on the same playing field with Vrabel.

After playing four years of basketball as a forward in the Big Ten, Travis declared for the NFL draft after many curious observers, including myself, saw Travis move on the court and were in awe of his physical size and agility. Travis, like many other power forwards of past and present in Big Ten, was very big and athletic and had the body type to take the constant pounding below the basket.

Draymond Green, now with the Golden State Warriors who played for Michigan State, also stands 6-foot-7, 230 pounds (almost identical measurements as Travis) is equally as athletic and physical. Although Travis was undrafted by NFL, Former Penn State coach and current Houston Texans head man Bill O’Brien gave him a shot to show that he was more than just a basketball player during summer workouts.

I have always been fascinated how a star NBA player and elite athlete like LeBron James would perform in the NFL (with the proper coaching and training) as a tight end or receiver. I am sure NFL defenders will say, “There is no way a basketball player turned NFL receiver is scoring on me without getting lit up.”

I still remember my first time seeing a young Shaquille O’Neal in person while traveling to Los Angeles as a member of the Miami Heat and being in awe at how small he made our center, 7-footer Alonzo Mourning, look, and how easy he moved up and down the court with such a huge frame. At the time I was thinking, “Good luck trying to keep him out of the paint.”

Now, after hearing Ross Travis’ story, and those of others like Julius Peppers (who excelled at North Carolina in football while also playing basketball), I cannot help but imagine how a young O’Neal would be on the defensive line as a pass rusher at 7-foot-1, 300 pounds with some coaching. At a minimum I think he deflects one pass per game and perhaps with some coaching and technique (think Michael Oher) he becomes downright scary for opposing quarterbacks.

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Sad turn for NBA prospect Isaiah Austin an important lesson for all athletes 06.25.14 at 11:05 am ET
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Draft prospect Isaiah Austin was just days away from seeing his dream of playing in the NBA come true. Instead he becomes another sad but true reminder why all college student-athletes should prepare for life after sports. And it’s another reason why colleges should do more to help prepare these young men for what lies ahead.

In a terrible turn of events, the 20-year-old, 7-foot-1 center from Baylor was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a career-ending condition “caused by a genetic mutation that leads to problems in connective tissues throughout the body.” Marfan.org states that “about 1-in-5,000 people have the condition that can affect the heart, blood vessels, bones or joints.”

I know the pain of having your life’s dream come to an abrupt end at an early age. I will never forget being a 24-year-old rookie sitting in then-Heat coach Pat Riley‘s office and having my career come to an end due to an ankle injury.

Riley shared his experience as a former player and talked about how he felt after his body could no longer withstand the pounding in the NBA. “Huck, I have to let you go,” are the words that I’ll never forget. For a 24-year-old who had just signed an NBA contract, it was like dying. I was blessed enough to be able to play for a paycheck in the NBA and Europe, but like so many I had never thought about what I would do when basketball ended.

I’ve heard about some of the quirky questions general managers ask draft prospects in the NFL and NBA (Michigan’s Nik Stauskas said he got a Justin Bieber question). But I wonder if they ask every draft prospect how prepared they are to go out into the general workforce (non-sports-related field) and obtain a job?

I make it a point now to talk to every player I interview while doing games for ESPN about preparing for life after sports. There is nothing wrong with chasing a dream of playing professionally, but it is bad business to not have a succession plan of what you will do afterward.

Unfortunately, Isaiah Austin, like myself, had his career come to an abrupt end. Hopefully he can go back to Baylor, finish his education and share his story with other student-athletes about the importance of a backup plan.

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Read More: Aaron Gordon, Isaiah Austin, Malcolm Huckaby, Pat Riley
Malcolm Huckaby remembers the making of Erik Spoelstra 05.28.12 at 7:28 am ET
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The little office light on in the practice facility still on at 3 a.m. The calculating of plus-minus plays in practice. The guy breaking down film for Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley.

This is my memory up close with a Pat Riley clone and future coach of an NBA dream team named Erik Spoelstra.

I had fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams, playing in the NBA for the Heat, when I inked a one-year deal in 1996 as a free agent with Riley, who coached the team then.

Riley mused on a then-undrafted free agent point guard out of Boston College who had overcome a horrific ankle injury, calling me a player who was a PHD (poor, hungry and desperate). Spoelstra, at the time, was crafting his skill in the dungeon of the video room of the team, working long hours desperately trying to give Riley any advantage possible.

Most people on the outside at the time of the 1996-97 season failed to give the kind of credit they do now for the work of assistant coaches, who work zombie hours with all the credit going to the head coach. But the knowledge that was around when I played was priceless. You had a Hall of Fame coach in Riley, along with Stan Van Gundy (who, after I asked him and Spoelstra how much sleep they got the night before, replied, ‘€œHuck, sleep is overrated’€), and assistant coach Bob (Can Do) McAdoo, who once led the NBA in scoring when guys with nicknames like ‘€œIce Man’€ were playing.

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Read More: Bob McAdoo, Erik Spoelstra, Malcolm Huckaby, Pat Riley
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