What sport would each Toronto Raptor play during a Michael Jordan-inspired basketball sabbatical?

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The Last Dance took us through a whirlwind of stories into the Chicago Bulls ‘90s dynasty and Michael Jordan’s life. One of those moments came when Jordan shocked the world and decided to retire, eventually leading to his short stint as a baseball player.

This got me thinking. What if someone on the Raptors decided to walk away from the game of basketball and take on a journey in another sport. Could you imagine Kyle Lowry pitching for the Blue Jays, or Fred VanVleet scoring a goal off an Auston Matthews one-timer?

With no basketball, or any live sports, I decided to assign a different sport to each Raptor. I tried not to duplicate sports and also spent time to justify my selections. This really is an open-ended discussion — and entirely unrealistic — so feel free to chime in with your thoughts to create some fun pandemic discussion.

Let’s get started.

Kyle Lowry – Football

Most people are probably going to assign Lowry to a sport where his butt can look the best. Baseball pants. Soccer shorts. Swimsuit. Take your pick.

My decision is instead solely based on skill. Lowry is known to not be afraid of standing in and take a charge, no matter the size of his opponent — similar to an NFL blocker. Lowry is small enough to dribble his way through the defense — or quick enough on his feet to be a running back. Meanwhile, Lowry has the ability to see the court and pass the ball quickly up the court — much like having the arm and vision of a quarterback.

Lowry’s complete game allows for him to work his way into almost any position on the football field. (Though, yes, maybe not as an offensive lineman; we wouldn’t want him getting hurt for a potential return to the Raptors.) Still, there’d be quite the learning curve here. Apparently Lowry has never played football before because it’s “too physical.”

Pascal Siakam – Basketball

We’re going to cheat with this one because, well, Siakam is only getting started in basketball. Siakam first started playing organized ball at the age of 17 and he’s taken off with it ever since. He’s gone from studying to be a priest, to organized ball, to playing at New Mexico State, to becoming an NBA first round pick, to then winning the Most Improved Player award and claiming an NBA championship. Siakam has come so far in such a short period — he’s now 26 years old — that I’m going to keep Siakam with basketball. Who knows what’s next for him — more All-Star appearances, more titles, maybe even an MVP award? It feels like a crime to even imagine Siakam in any other sport now.

(OK, fine, the other obvious answer here is soccer. With his speed, height, and body control, Siakam would be an awesome striker.)

Fred VanVleet – Mixed Martial Arts/UFC

VanVleet once went at LeBron James after the two got tangled up in Game 1 of the Raptors-Cavaliers second round series in 2018. LeBron has about eight inches and 55 pounds on VanVleet. Yet the Raptors guard was ready to defend himself and not back down in a heated moment. Fred even had to be held back by his teammates.

There was also the opening minutes of the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the 2019 NBA Finals when VanVleet took an inadvertent Shaun Livingston elbow to the face. Blood dripping down from around his right eye, VanVleet proceeded to get up off the Oracle Arena floor, get attended to by trainers, and receive seven stitches. Though he didn’t return that game, it didn’t stop him from making a huge impact for the rest of the series. And let’s not forget that VanVleet also lost part of his tooth in the Finals too.

In short, VanVleet is a fighter. Nothing knocks him down, and if it does, he gets back up. In that spirit, maybe he belongs in the octagon.

Marc Gasol – Water Polo

This is my first off the board selection. I have no idea if he can swim, but Gasol, one of the best passing big men in the NBA could make his mark in the pool with his vision. Before this season got shut down, the Spaniard was second in assists-to-turnover ratio, which means he takes care of the ball and makes smart decisions. Gasol could probably fire a couple into the net playing water polo just like he steps back and knocks down the three-ball or whips a one-handed pass.

What’s more, Spain’s national water polo team could also use some help. They last medalled at the Olympics in 1996, winning gold. They’ve had some success at other tournaments but adding a strong passer in the pivot could add to more success on the world stage.

Serge Ibaka – Tennis

According to Lyst.com, tennis was the most stylish sport in 2019. Not totally sure how they determined that, and I couldn’t find the 2019 results, but for someone who loves fashion, Ibaka would fit right in. He could show his style on and off the court and he’d have more opportunity to travel the world. He’d be in France for the French Open, London for Wimbledon and New York for the US Open.

For actual skill to play the sport, Ibaka has the length and reach to cover the whole court. Basketball is a sport that requires lateral quickness and that can translate over to tennis. For me, Ibaka and tennis just feels right.

Norman Powell – High Jump

We know all about Powell’s hops and ability to fly for highlight reel dunks. It could be argued that he’s the best dunker currently on the Raptors, so why not see how he’d do in high jump.

Prior to being drafted in 2015, Powell was listed as having a 40.5 inch vertical and that could slightly be better since he’s improved as an athlete. Now, high jumpers aren’t tested on their vertical jumping because they get a running start. That being said, the world record in high jump is 2.45 metres, or 96.5 inches. According to statista.com, the winning high jumper at the Olympics (between 1976 and 2016) is averaging between 2.25 metres and 2.5 metres.

Can Powell make that average? Who knows, but he’s the Raptor I’d pick to attempt it.

OG Anunoby – Table Tennis

I have no reason behind this choice beyond the humourous image it creates. Picture OG, stone-faced, small racket in big hand, his massive frame turned to the surface of the ping-pong table. Anunoby probably has some skills we don’t know about and table tennis could very well be one of them. If nothing else, it feels like it would be incredibly difficult to hit a ball past him, given his reach and reflexes — to say nothing of the intimidation factor involved.

Terence Davis – Football

At the start I said I would try not to replicate answers, but I’m dropping that rule this one time for obvious reasons.

This last February, on an episode of Open Gym, Davis’ mom said: “I always knew he was special ‘cause he, as a kid, he always had a ball in his hand. So I knew it was gonna be something, but I thought it would be football.”

Davis played both sports in high school and got college offers for both: over 20 NCAA Division I programs recruited him to play football and only five offers for basketball. He ultimately went with basketball at Ole Miss, and it has worked out so far. Still, most thought TD was ready to complete a bunch of TDs and it feels wrong to deprive the world of that possible outcome in this hypothetical scenario.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – Rugby

Hollis-Jefferson is known to be physical and could be one of the toughest players — if not the most reckless — on the Raptors. To play rugby you have to have grit and be able to put your body on the line. Hollis-Jefferson wouldn’t be afraid to take his physicality onto the rugby field. This feels like a no brainer to me.

Chris Boucher – Volleyball

Boucher is listed at six feet and nine inches tall, with a 7’4” wingspan and a hand size listed at 10.5 inches. That length, coupled with his footspeed, makes Boucher a deadly shot-blocker in basketball. But it would also translate into making him a solid outside or middle hitter in volleyball. And of course, his height can help him be a strong blocker there too. He might need a libero to substitute in for him to play backcourt defense, but Boucher could be a strong offensive player in volleyball.

Matt Thomas – Archery

Honestly, I just went with a sport that requires some accuracy from distance. Known as a three-point shooter, Thomas could have the range and eye to hit a target like they do in archery. He’s got the range and the focus, so sure, let’s go with that.

Patrick McCaw – Running

This was a tough one. We don’t really know much about McCaw other than he frustrates Raptors fans and some people question why Nick Nurse gives him minutes. Nevertheless, McCaw sometimes puts in long appearances for the Raptors, and in those times he runs and runs and runs and never seems to get tired. We’ll keep it simple here. McCaw is good at running.

Nick Nurse – Hockey

The Maple Leafs could use some help designing their defense — something Nurse may be already be a genius at. Hockey could also lead to future famous Nurse GIFs while he’s behind the bench and some great soundbites during post-game interviews. Those are the best reasons I can think of to keep Nurse in sports because lets be real: he’d become a musician if he ever stepped away from basketball.

Masai Ujiri – Baseball

A movie similar to Moneyball starring Masai Ujiri would be a blockbuster. Give Ujiri a sport with no salary cap, where he has to convince ownership to give him more money to spend in free agency. He’s found some hidden gems in the NBA Draft, so what could he do in a 50-round mega-draft? It would be interesting to see Ujiri design a 25-man roster with additional signings needed for the minor league teams. There’s also usually more action at the deadline in baseball. In that spirit, Ujiri could really flex his GM muscles by taking charge of an MLB team.

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There you have it. If any members of the Raptors just up and retired from basketball, those are the sports they would get into. And yes, we didn’t include Malcolm Miller or Dewan Hernandez in this summary, so the floor is yours.

Leave a comment recommending a game for them!