3 NBA players that have dominated both the court and the felt

Latrell Sprewell poker gambling

Poker has definitely come a long way from being just a mere casino game to being a multi-million dollar sport played in major cities across the world and even online.

Basketball stars display their ability on the court with every cut, dribble and dunk, but with the popularity of poker, many basketball superstars and even amateurs have started to become major players in significant poker tournaments. There are a handful of basketball superstars that juggle playing hoops and playing poker.

Could there be a correlation between the intense game of basketball and the strategy of poker? Could there be more to it than just the physical and mental challenges of both games?

Both are considered physical and mental sports that need focus and coordination, but at entirely different levels. Professional basketball players of the NBA endure rigorous physical training to build and strengthen muscles as well as increase stamina and flexibility. Basketball players are honed with the needed skills, attitude, and discipline to dominate the court and win games. It is these same skills that make them such forces at the poker tables.

Poker is considered to be a highly competitive sport. You could lose sight of the prize if you don’t have the right attitude for this game. You need to be able to predict the moves of your competition and match it with your own. This works precisely the same way with playing basketball – you have to learn how to control your temper, especially when push comes to shove, as this is necessary to stay on top of the game. You cannot let your emotions get the best of you, or you have already lost before you even started. You have to be emotionally, mentally, and physically prepped up for the win – nothing else matters. You have to claim success right from the start – and the universe will cooperate.

Mental toughness or agility is said to be one trait that needs to be developed and mastered in both sports. This is not an easy feat but is certainly doable, especially with the right attitude and aptitude for the game.

Here are the top 3 professional basketball players who have showed flair in the game of poker:

Paul “The Truth” Pierce

Paul Pierce at the 2013 WSOP

While still calibrating his next moves in the NBA, the former Bolton Celtics forward decided to join the World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas in 2014 to try his luck on bagging that one shot to fame with a deck of cards. He went strong on the first 2 days of the tournament and was even up against the bigwigs of poker but was eliminated on the third day of the tournament. It was a tough stint but Pierce still managed to come out strong and ranked around 800th place out of the total 6,683 players in Las Vegas.

The always outspoken Paul Pierce also entered the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2013 but also failed to cash in the $10,000 buy-in event. The most important thing for Paul Pierce is that poker has taught him how to be a “thinking player” on and off the court. This has given him a mental home court advantage everywhere he goes, so-to-speak.

Gilbert Arenas

Gilbert Arenas playing poker

This 32-year-old former NBA All-Star Player, playing for teams like the Memphis Grizzlies and Orlando Magic, has proven time and time again that he can dominate any court. He attempted to prove he could also run any table when he entered the 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) in the Bahamas where he played against the biggest names in poker such as Scott Seiver and Jason Mercier. Although he didn’t find much success in that event, Gilbert Arenas is known for playing his cards well – both literally and figuratively – and is rumored to play in high stakes games, having good control over his chips.

Shawn “The Matrix” Marion

Shawn Marion playing poker

He has played in the NBA for 16 years straight and knows that basketball is a physical game; however, he knows that it is 80% mental. He has suffered from several injuries during his career but has remained fearless and resourceful, giving 110%, despite the pain that challenges his daily uphill battle with basketball.

Cleveland Cavalier’s Shawn Marion has even more cards up his sleeve now that he has also played with the high rollers in the World Series of Poker in 2011. The 2014 to 2015 NBA season is said to highlight the last of Shawn Marion’s basketball career but this trailblazer, who deserves to be a Hall of Famer, is set to ignite more applause from his fans with his newfound seat in elite poker tournaments.

Poker and basketball is a paradox of extremes although they do have a lot of things in common. Every household or community is incomplete without a basketball court; everybody loves basketball. The sport is a culture in itself. It has become a way of life for many people. Both poker and basketball provide the entertainment break that everybody needs, especially in the fast-paced stressful rat race we call life.

However, compared to the deafening silence of poker tournaments, the basketball arena is rowdy and jam-packed with cheering people left and right. Exposure to these two conflicting environments will give you the versatility you need in every game. As Pierce puts it, poker has “taught [him] how to play smart and essentially how to be patient with [his] game.”

You have to be strategic in both basketball and poker – it’s not just about being physically tough but being mentally efficient in knowing how to time your moves. Handling distraction or even intimidation is one of the biggest challenges in poker and basketball. You have to turn the negative into your advantage. It’s not entirely just about winning – it certainly is about how you play the game.

Poker is about how you direct every move and sync it to your own life approach until it becomes innate or second nature. Strategically, this is what poker teaches even the biggest superstars in the basketball arena – how to master the art of winning. It’s about being fearless and invincible, yet patient, which ultimately gives you the winning streak you desire, whether on the basketball court or on the felt.

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