That right there is Manny Pacquiao, boxer extraordinaire, sending out the first pitch at a Dodgers game. Pacquiao, who also made a splash in professional basketball with his participation in the Philippine Basketball Association earlier this month, has been one of many athletes who have more than one sporting interest, and one of the ones who seems to be putting his money where his mouth is and branching out, regardless of whether or not he’ll be as successful as, say, Deion Sanders.
While we’ll refrain from harping on Pacquiao’s basketball performance so far, the jump from boxing to basketball is a bit of a leap given the wildly different outcomes and avenues toward points between the two points. At the same time, there’s some aesthetic questions that are raised by this encounter: How far can you actually go? What skillsets are the most transferable? What games would be the most entertaining? There’s an entire rabbit hole to be explored if you consider how many fringe sports could do with the kind of publicity infusion that a big name star can provide, and it’s a journey we’re more than willing to take.
Here, then, are seven different pro athletes that we would love to see doing something other than what they’re famous for.
7. LeBron James — Water Polo
For the world’s best basketball player, this is well-trod territory — not only has he been considered as a tremendous hypothetical soccer goalie, but he’s also gone on the record saying that he’d like to play in at least one NFL game while he’s still physically able. That’s all well and good, but we’d love to see LeBron play water polo. Why water polo? It’s like soccer meets basketball meets a swimming pool, and because the breathless ESPN coverage would be hilarious.
6. Serena Williams — Four Square
In many ways, this is the least imaginative of the bunch, since Four Square — the playground game/sport — shares at least a few similarities with tennis insofar as what constitutes a point. On the other hand, we can’t think of anyone who would be better equipped to turn Four Square into the international exhibition it deserves to be.
5. Derek Jeter — Extreme Ironing
Yes, extreme ironing is a thing. But more important, now that Derek Jeter has retired from the New York Yankees, he’s going to have some serious downtime — and judging by his besuited appearance, he’s going to have to keep his ironing skills sharp. What if he doesn’t iron his own clothes, you ask? Then we’ve spent the last season applauding the exploits of a man who doesn’t even iron his own clothes. Think about that.
4. Percy Harvin — Hurling
No, it’s not a euphemism for vomiting. Hurling, a Gaelic game that’s more or less about (warning: vast oversimplification ahead) running around on a soccer pitch hitting each other — and, occasionally, a baseball — with wooden sticks would be perfect for Harvin, who has been reportedly running roughshod over his former teammates.
3. Rory McIlroy — Jai Alai
That way he can leave his outfits mostly intact, but come on, golf is boring to watch for everyone. Jai Alai is not, and all it needs is a highly visible spokesperson to leave behind another game that he’s destined to be kind of good at forever and embrace something that he might not be good at at all for our amusement. We think McIlroy can do that.
2. Maria Sharapova — Street Luge
We’ve got to come clean here. Up until a chance encounter with this clip from the remake of Rollerball, we were all ready to give Maria a new life as a Wingsuit pilot. We’d still be down with that — squirrel suits are awesome, and frankly they need to be more ingrained in the everyday lives of sports fans — but we can’t deny the throwback factor of awful turn of the century action sports movies. Street Luge it is.
1. Johnny Manziel — Extreme Pogo
For reasons that shouldn’t need to be explained here, we can’t think of a better face of a sport than Johnny Manziel and extreme pogo. This has to happen, for the good of all mankind and all womankind and every other form of life on the planet. You know it. We know it. The only thing left is for Johnny Football to embrace his destiny.