The NFL, NBA and… IFBB?

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by Geoff Roberts

The sport of bodybuilding, as with any sport at an elite level, contains numerous factors which limit the progression of the sport, as well as dictate the extent to which it’s athletes can improve. A prime example of one of these limiting factors that is found in bodybuilding, but is rarely seen in mainstream sports such as football and basketball, is lack of serious popularity. Obviously, the less popular a particular sport is, the less people will try it, leaving a smaller chance that the truly genetically blessed fall into that sport. This begs the question, what would bodybuilding be like if the IFBB had the potential financial gain and extreme popularity of an organization like the NBA or NFL? Assuming bodybuilding was the single most popular sport on earth, the majority of people who are interested in athletics would give the sport a serious try at some point in their life. Proof of this fact can be seen in today’s youth athletics. I do not know the specific numbers, however I would imagine that the percentage of kids who try organized football or basketball must be fairly high. As mentioned above, this hypothetical situation would prevent the majority of truly blessed individuals from ever even attempting to body-build at all.

Bodybuilding being extremely popular would also cause individuals to try it who, based on the sports that have all the popularity today, may have actually been persuaded to pursue a different sport based on a single physical attribute. Some of the greatest examples of this paradox include, unusually tall people naturally gravitating towards basketball, or naturally powerful people being sucked into football. If you are of an elite genetic makeup in terms of athleticism and physical capability, while at the same time standing nearly seven feet tall, the chance of you pursuing a sport outside of basketball or football is minut. This fact is more than likely one of the main reasons professional bodybuilding is all but void of men over six feet tall. All bodybuilding fans are aware of the visual impact a taller athlete has over a short bodybuilder on stage. Classic images of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu come to mind. Despite the fact that Franco was probably more muscular and balanced than Arnold, it is difficult to even take Franco seriously when looking at these images, due to his height. The question must be asked, if bodybuilding was the world’s most popular sport, would our Mr. Olympia be well over six feet tall? Some fans may say that tall guys do not have the right structure for elite bodybuilding, however, this thought is severely flawed. Examples of tall men with great structures exist inside our sport, such as Tony Freeman and Lou Ferrigno, as well as outside our sport, such as Lebron James.

Lebron James represents the numerous cast of characters who possess elite level genetic gifts in terms of structure and muscle shape, while at the same time being extremely tall. Any person who has recently laid eyes on the physical specimen that is Lebron James, would be foolhardy to assume King James would be unable to excel in bodybuilding. This becomes even more apparent when one considers Lebron’s astronomical level of dedication and work ethic. Anyone who knows how much work Lebron puts into basketball should have no problem agreeing that Lebron absolutely has the mental fortitude to compete in elite level bodybuilding. Lebron stands 6’8” tall, weighing roughly 255 lbs (up to 280 if you believe the all too common professional athlete exaggeratory lies). At 255 lbs., Lebron’s superior muscle insertions and bellies, to a seasoned bodybuilding fan, are as obvious as Bill Maher’s political views. The other aspect of James’ physique that sticks out like a sore sub-q growth injection, is the apparent ability of his structure to carry an exorbitant amount of lean mass without looking blocky. The main physical attributes that allow this being a small tight waist, and exceptionally wide shoulders.

In an attempt to compare recent IFBB pros to a hypothetical IFBB-pro-level Lebron James, it would be appropriate to bring up the names Quincy Taylor and Lou Ferrigno. Lou and Big QT are the official skyscrapers of the IFBB in regards to the last two decades or so. Quincey stands 6’4” tall, and in his prime was capable of professional bodybuilder condition weighing one McDouble over 300 lbs. Lou, who stood 6’5’’, supposedly tipped the scales at an earth shattering 320 pounds onstage. If anyone remembers the day that Quincey earned his professional status, peeled to the bone, one will also remember the way that his height and structure, when conditioned, formed an awe-inspiring, dominant image. That said, it is not out of the question to say that King James has at least as good of a structure as QT or Lou, possibly better, with his ultra wide clavicles and tight waist. Based on Lebron’s current build, being a aerobic based athlete, and taking little to no performance enhancing drugs, it is safe to say that Lebron more than likely has the ability to pack on enormous amounts of muscle, assuming that was his goal. With this, as well as Quincy’s and Lou’s on-stage body weights of 305 and 320 in mind, an accurate estimation of King James’ competitive body weight could realistically be as high as 345 lbs. This means that if Lebron James had become a successful bodybuilder instead of basketball player, his stage weight would be roughly 100 lbs. more than our current king, Phil Heath. Not only that, but Lebron would outweigh the next heaviest competitor, Big Ramy, by about 50 lbs.

The bodybuilding popularity hypothetical would also draw numerous other monsters of the genetic lagoon to the Olympia stage, instead of the NBA finals or Superbowl. This situation may or may not cause the Olympia lineup to consist of multiple giants tipping the scales well over the elusive 300 lb. realm, possibly creeping closer to an “I need a special scale to weigh myself”, 400 lbs. It creates an interesting dynamic to ponder whether or not a 5’9” 250 lb. Phil, a 5’8” 260 lb. Kai or even a 5’10” 295 lb Ramy could survive among these hypothetical human mountains. The Everest of these mountains could very well be a 345 lb. shredded Lebron James. This mythical image of King James residing in the back of one’s head, provokes the ironic thought that Phil may want to thank his lucky stars that bodybuilding is in fact a fairly unpopular, niche sport.  

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