ESPN the Magazine ESPN


ESPNMAG.com
In This Issue
Backtalk
Message Board
Customer Service
SPORT SECTIONS







The Life


Moonlighting
ESPN The Magazine

We've had football players switch to baseball (Bo, Deion, Brian Jordan), and we've had basketball players switch to baseball (that other Jordan), and we've had baseball players switch to basketball (Danny Ainge).

But this is a switch we haven't seen: from the NFL to the NBA.

Someone might be ready to try. And it's not Randy Moss, because Randy Moss was a good AAU player, nothing more. And I doubt it's Terrell Owens, although Terrell will lead you to believe he can dunk on the Lakers' starting center.

Instead, the only legitimate candidate is a two-time Pro Bowl tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs who -- and I witnessed this with my own eyes -- racked up 21 points and 12 rebounds recently against the Orlando Magic's Bo Outlaw.

Now I know it was just a Los Angeles summer league game, and I know he didn't score all 21 on Bo. I know the game started at the ungodly hour of 10:30 a.m., and I know Bo had 25 and 14 himself (not to mention seven assists). But I came away thinking Tony Gonzalez could be somebody's 10th or 11th man. Maybe better.

First of all, he's a rock. He's 6'5" -- of course, this being basketball, they listed him at 6'6" -- and he had the best body out there. And surprise -- he has unbelievable hands. There were NBA scouts in attendance, none of whom offered him a contract (and they probably won't). One of the scouts I talked to said he's a power forward in a small forward's body, and the scout is probably right. But this is the best NFL basketball player out there, and he is at least worth a look.

I'm sure the Kansas City Chiefs hate this whole thing, considering training camp's coming up, it's Gonzalez's contract year, and they desperately need a Super Bowl before Dick Vermeil keels over. But Gonzalez, 25, played collegiate basketball at Cal -- he knows what he's doing, and if the Chiefs are thinking about putting the franchise-tag on him after the season, this is his only leverage.

"No, the Chiefs organization doesn't like it at all, and I agree with them," Gonzalez says. "I wouldn't [like it] either. But I've been playing since I was a little kid, and I love it. I mean, I sprained an ankle this year playing pickup ball. Some 45-year-old who'd been playing basketball maybe two years fell back on it. If he'd fallen higher, I'd have blown my knee out. So I'd rather play against pros. Carl Peterson knows I know what I'm doing. I'm a football player first ... but I've always wondered about playing in the NBA. I mean, I played with Shareef Abdur-Rahim at Cal, and wondered it then. So at least I know now I wouldn't have made a fool of myself."

He is sometimes playing two summer league games a day now -- lifting his football weights in between -- but, trust me, he's thought a lot about the NBA. He sees himself as a Corliss Williamson type, or an Outlaw type -- someone who does the dirty work. He has a serviceable 12-to-15-foot jump shot, and, being a tight end, he knows how to block -- or block out, that is.

He also will admit he has contemplated the two-sport scenario. His football season would end (hopefully) in the Super Bowl, but in the event the Chiefs are mediocre (as most think they will be), he says he could take two weeks off to heal up, two more weeks to get into basketball shape, and then join an NBA team just after the February all-star break. It's not unrealistic either, considering teams sign players to 10-day contracts all the time late in the year as injuries mount.

"I mean, I'd have to [in] not entirely ready," he says. "But they could count on my hustle ... obviously, everything would have to be perfect. I mean, it's my contract year with the Chiefs and I would never jeopardize that. But if the opportunity came along, it'd be difficult not to think about it."

Again, it's not very likely, but assuming the NBA players he played with aren't lying through their teeth, he has a chance. He's playing on a team with Baron Davis of the Charlotte Hornets and Ira Newbill, who's been with the San Antonio Spurs. And he's starting ahead of Jarron Collins, one of the Stanford twins from last season (Okay, Cal fans, you can gloat now).

Says Davis: "Tony's a smart player; he could play in the NBA. He hustles, and sets screens. Who wouldn't want to play with that?"

In the meantime, the team he lit up the other day included the Clippers' starting point guard, Jeff McInnis, and Phoenix's Penny Hardaway, and Outlaw, of course. "Well, he didn't get that scholarship to college for nothin'," said Outlaw of Gonzalez's game.

Considering Outlaw is all elbows and shoulders, and a premier NBA rebounder, it was a rugged matchup, and both hit the ground a couple of times. One time, Outlaw kneed him in the abdomen, and Bo told him, "See, I can play football too."

But that's baloney, and we know it's baloney. No one's gone NBA to NFL, and no one ever will.

"I'd break you in half," Gonzalez told Outlaw, laughing. "I'd break you in half."

Tom Friend is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at tom.friend@espnmag.com.



Latest Issue


Also See


Tony Gonzalez player page
Just football stats ... for now

Kansas City Chiefs clubhouse
Hail to the Chiefs

ESPNMAG.com
Who's on the cover today?

SportsCenter with staples
Subscribe to ESPN The Magazine for just ...



 ESPN Tools
Email story
 
Most sent
 
Print story
 


Customer Service

SUBSCRIBE
GIFT SUBSCRIPTION
CHANGE OF ADDRESS

CONTACT US
CHECK YOUR ACCOUNT
BACK ISSUES

ESPN.com: Help | Media Kit | Contact Us | Tools | Site Map | PR
Copyright ©2002 ESPN Internet Ventures. Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and Safety Information are applicable to this site. For ESPN the Magazine customer service (including back issues) call 1-888-267-3684. Click here if you're having problems with this page.