Retired NBA players love to lament how the game has gotten soft in recent years. Today’s players flop too much, they don’t have to deal with hand-checking, and any hard foul is immediately ruled as a flagrant. Of course, players in the ‘80s and ‘90s never had to deal with hybrid zone defenses (that was “illegal defense” back in the day) or cover all the extra space that the three-point revolution has ushered in, but that’s beside the point.
Next time you hear a former player talk about how today’s athletes aren’t as tough as they were, please show them Wrestleball. Yes, Wrestleball. This is an actual sport in Russia with its own YouTube channel. The early returns are absolutely incredible to watch.
You may remember UFC GOAT Khabib Nurmagomedov saying he plays “Dagestani basketball” to train. Clips of this sport have gone viral before. Now there’s a full league, and it’s hard to take your eyes off it.
Basketball and wrestling could not be any more different as sports. It takes completely different body types and skill sets to be good at each of them. I remember playing basketball in high school gym class with wrestlers who had the most broken jump shots you have ever seen in your life. There’s no doubt most basketball players, with their long, lanky bodies, would get demolished in real wrestling. That’s why this new sport is so entraining to watch.
This feels like a combination of basketball, rugby, and wrestling. There’s no traveling in Wrestleball. There are free throws on shooting fouls, but you can also tackle your opponent cleanly on the court whether they have the ball or not. Out of bounds is only a state of mind. If you thought the old Big East was rough, just wait until you see someone take their shirt off mid-play and body slam their opponent. This is a real thing that happened:
Wrestleball does not start with a jump ball. That wouldn’t make any sense. Instead, it starts with ... a wrestling match to determine possession. Goaltending doesn’t seem to exist. There is, however, a three-point line. Most of these dudes don’t exactly have the touch of Ray Allen from deep, and are instead just sort of throwing the ball up and hoping it goes in off the backboard. Field goals are worth one point, and it seems like the majority of the scoring is done via the free throw line.
If you thought ‘80s NBA playoff games were low scoring, wait until you see three brutal periods of Wrestleball. You can watch an entire game (match?) here.
What NBA player throughout history would make the best Wrestleball player? The first name that comes to mind is Charles Oakley. Let us know your choices in the comments.