Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Russell recently attended a USA World Cup team practice at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. Russell helped the Boston Celtics win 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons from 1956-1969. The 76-year-old Russell is not the only basketball great getting some kicks from World Cup soccer.
Two future members of the Basketball Hall of Fame, Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns and Kobe Bryant of the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, are both big football fans, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see one or both players in South Africa during the World Cup.
As I write this, Nash and Bryant are currently playing against each other in the NBA Western Conference finals. If Nash decides to go to South Africa, it would be a homecoming of sorts. He was born in Johannesburg, where the World Cup’s opening match and final will be held. Nash describes himself as a passionate supporter of Tottenham in the English Premier League, and he’s expressed interest in owning a piece of the club. His father, John, and brother, Martin, have both played professional soccer, and Nash has said he thinks he could have played professional football if he had focused on the sport.
For his part, Kobe Bryant was introduced to soccer as a young boy growing up in Italy, where his father played professional basketball. Kobe says one of his boyhood dreams was playing for the Italian club AC Milan. In recent years, Kobe has also shown support for the Spanish club Barcelona, and the Lakers star currently appears in a new Nike TV commercial promoting the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.