Who will be the NBA Equivalent of Tim Tebow?

By Andrew Gilstrap

Tim Tebow post game

Tim Tebow (Photo by Jack Dempsey, Associated Press)


Tim Tebow mania couldn’t be higher, and the kid continues to prove his legitimacy. Tebow and the Broncos are coming off a playoff upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tebow has begun to bring his winning ways to the professional football game. Even if you’ve ignored football this season, you’d be hard-pressed to have missed the media hype surrounding Tebow — coverage that has exploded even beyond sports outlets. He wasn’t supposed to succeed in the pros, but, now wrapping up his second season, he is proving doubters wrong. So why am I beginning this post talking about football?

I am contemplating who the NBA’s version of Tim Tebow might be. I see some parallels between the stories of Tebow and several players in the NBA. Tebow has proved he can be a winner in the NFL, winning seven of his first eight games as a starter and now having a playoff win under his belt. His exuberance for his religion has almost made as many headlines as his play on the field. Sometimes called “The Great White Hope,” Tebow doesn’t dominate each possession he has with the ball, but he continues to find (occasionally unorthodox) ways to win ballgames. With that said, let’s look at two possible NBA (future) equals to Tim Tebow:

Jimmer Fredette

Jimmer Fredette in action

Jimmer Fredette (Photo by Ben Margot, Associated Press)

Parallels to Tebow: 

  • Range: Tebow has a strong arm and can throw the football deep. Fredette can shoot the basketball from deep with ease, even in the NBA.
  • Religion: Both are Christians. Fredette is a Mormon who went to the Mormon-oriented Brigham Young University. Mormons are known for strict adherence to their moral code. Although not from the same denomination, Tebow holds himself up to a high standard as well.
  • Position: Fredette and Tebow both play positions that are unique for players of their size in their respective sports. Tebow is a quarterback who easily has the size to play linebacker. Jimmer is the size of a point guard, but he functions better as a shooting guard (similar to Allen Iverson and Ben Gordon).
  • Size: Fredette is 6-feet 2-inches. Tebow is 6-feet 3-inches. Although Tebow has nearly 40 lbs. on Fredette, neither can be considered lanky.
  • College accolades: Both went to college for four years. Both did not distinctly excel in college until their sophomore seasons. Both received the highest honor for an individual player for a single season.
  • Skillset: Both are more proficient at skills other than passing — Jimmer with shooting; Tebow with running.
  • Potential: If Fredette can excel in the pros the way he did in college, he could be a bona fide superstar like Tim Tebow (if Tebow keeps puts together multiple successful seasons like this one). Both weren’t anticipated to flourish in the pros.

Distinct Differences:

  • Religion: Other than coming from different denominations, Tebow and Fredette do not express their faith on the same level in games. Tebow is obviously more outspoken and open.
  • Size: Tebow has good size for his position. Fredette does not.
  • Media personalities: Tebow has been no stranger to appearing in commercials. Fredette has barely got his feet wet in this discipline and does not appear to show interest in doing so at this point. Tebow appears to soak up press coverage more than Fredette does.
  • College paths: Tebow won the Heisman Trophy early in his career (sophomore year). Fredette won the Naismith Award in his final year of college. Tebow lead his college team to a national championship, while Fredette did not.
  • Pro success: Fredette is currently in his rookie year, so it’s still too early to see if he pans out the way that Tebow has so far. Fredette is also on a losing team right now, but if he can help turn the Sacramento Kings around within the next couple years, we may be hearing his name just as often as we hear Tebow’s.

Tyler Hansbrough

Tyler Hansbrough in action

Tyler Hansbrough (Photo by Seth Wenig, Associated Press)

Parallels to Tebow:

  • Agility: Both Hansbrough and Tebow, to say the least, aren’t the most fluid players to watch in their respective sport. ‘Unorthodox’ or ‘herky-jerky‘ come to mind.
  • College accolades: Both attended schools that had a rich traditions for the sports they played: North Carolina for basketball (Hansbrough); Florida for football (Tebow). Both players went to college for four years. Both of them won the highest honor for an individual player — during a single season — before their senior years. And both lead their teams to a national championship.
  • Work ethic: Hansbrough and Tebow are both considered hard workers when playing. Both do many of the little things that put their team in a position to win. They both have a high motor in games, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to call both ‘scrappy.’
  • Evolution: Both players have had to significantly adjust their styles to adapt in the pros. While both dominated in college, they both thrive through non-traditional means to help their team succeed (see ‘work ethic’). Experts thought both would falter at the professional level, but those doubts have largely dissipated.
  • Pro success: Hansbrough helped the Indiana Pacers to the playoffs in his second year and currently is an essential piece of the Pacers’ hot start this year. Hansbrough doesn’t start, but he is one of the first players off the bench, and he’s no stranger to double-doubles. Tebow became a starter in his this his second season, and he instantly changed around the culture of Denver Broncos. Both are to some degree succeeding in the pros at this point.
  • Size: Both players have good size for their position. Hansbrough may be a tad short for a power forward, but he’s certainly stout enough. Tebow has great size for a quarterback.

Distinct Differences: 

  • Religion: Whatever Hansbrough’s religion is, he doesn’t make a display of it during games, and doesn’t feel the need to champion it to the media.
  • Potential: Hansbrough, although solid, likely will never become a superstar in the NBA. At this point, it’s doubtful that he will be a rock-solid starter in the league, although he’s great off the bench. Hansbrough, as opposed to Tebow, isn’t in the position to dominate the pro game. Will Hanbrough ever be an All Star? Perhaps one day, but don’t expect him to ever be one of the faces of the NBA. But, who knows? He’s proved us wrong before.
  • Charisma: Although Hansbrough has appeared in a prominent commercial, he likely won’t be the media personality that Tebow is and can be. People seem drawn to Tebow; Hansbrough is low-key.

Time to Vote

Tebow, Fredette and Hansbrough all had outstanding four-year college careers and are looking to leave their marks at the pro level. Jimmer. Hansbrough. Tebow. All three have funky names. All three want to defy the critics. Tebow is currently the media darling of the group. Granted, with the NFL’s popularity, Tebow news easily makes it to most American households. But, perhaps an NBA player will follow the same path of media stardom in the future.

Fredette, as a person, seems to more closely resemble Tebow, but Hansbrough’s track record more intimately rivals Tebow’s. So who will be the the NBA’s rebuttal to Tim Tebow? Is is Fredette or Hansbrough? Or, do you think it’s another player, such as Kevin Love or even J.J. Barea? Please vote below, or leave your answer in the comment box. Let’s figure this out together.


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