Last week, Boston Celtics general manager, former NBA All-Star, and legendary Toronto Blue Jays infielder Danny Ainge tweeted out a video of himself dribbling a basketball with his French bulldog defending him. You might think this was a fair fight: Ainge is 60 and hasn’t played professional basketball since 1995, while his French bulldog appears to be in the prime of its athletic life. Yet Ainge absolutely works this dog. He looks like the Professor in this clip.
Despite hurling its body at the ball for 45 straight seconds, the bulldog rarely comes close to forcing a turnover. There are several times when it desperately leaps to take the ball out of Ainge’s hands, giving Ainge the chance to deploy relatively simple crossovers to devastating effect. At one point, the dog gets its torso on the ball, prompting Ainge to pick up his dribble. Because the dog touched the ball, however, Ainge keeps dribbling without traveling. And though there is no basket in the video, it’s obvious that Ainge could get to a hoop with virtually zero resistance from the dog.
Any dog owner knows that one of life’s great joys comes from completely embarrassing your dog in basic athletic endeavors. While dogs make for tremendous athletes, stronger pound-for-pound than most humans and considerably faster too, they are simply terrible at playing defense in most sports. Their diminutive size and lack of arms leaves them at an inherent disadvantage. And on top of that, their relentless pursuit of a ball coupled with their complete inability to suss out even the most obvious pump fakes often puts them in woeful defensive positioning.
Athletes have posted plenty of videos of themselves bamboozling dogs in their sports of choice. Out of dutiful journalistic obligation, I watched hours of these to determine the ideal sport for pupflummoxing. It quickly became clear that only sports involving dribbling—namely, basketball, soccer, and hockey—make for prime dog embarrassment fodder. (Dogs can’t really participate in baseball, football, tennis, or most other sports, even as a defender. Most dog-friendly versions of sports are just throwing a ball to your dog, which is fetch, and by playing fetch you run the possibility of your dog embarrassing you by refusing to bring the ball back.) So let’s go to the tape and thoroughly examine which of the three is best.
The history of professional basketball players embarrassing their dogs is remarkably extensive.
Here is Nicolas Batum repeatedly crossing up his retriever:
Here is Klay Thompson shaking another retriever. Thompson notably hates dribbling in actual basketball games, but here he employs a tactic rarely used in the NBA: the very high dribble that goes over a defender’s head. Despite the fact that Thompson is one of the best shooters in basketball history, the dog puts little effort into contesting his jumper.
Here is LaMelo Ball keeping the ball from a trio of Rottweilers—extremely athletic dogs—with a series of behind-the-back dribbles. He then completely ditches them with a spin move.
And here is Paul George calmly making quick work of his dog’s defensive advances. The dogfender drastically overplays George to his left, putting both of his front paws on George. George dribbles between his legs before drilling a 3. If referees would have called a foul on George’s dog for getting his paws on George’s body, this could’ve been a four-point play.
I have seen only one dog play competent basketball defense: Kevin Love’s vizsla puppy, which repeatedly knocked the ball out of his hands. In this video, the dog disrupts Love’s ballhandling so frequently that the five-time All-Star resorts to shoving his pup with his off-hand, an obvious offensive foul. I think Love’s vizsla has a higher trade value than Love at this point.
Crossing up a dog is so easy that it doesn’t even take a pro baller to do it. The greatest video of a dog getting schooled stars some guy at the park sonning a jolly pitbull mix while his friends scream, “EXPOSE HIM!”
Pros: Dribbling circles around a dog exploits humans’ two greatest athletic advantages in this matchup: our height and our hands. The ball bounces through the dog’s height zone, convincing the pup that it has a chance to take it. But the ball is being controlled well above the dog’s head. Taking your dog one-on-one maximizes the potential for canine embarrassment.
Cons: I truly, in my heart of hearts, cannot think of any.
Artemi Panarin is the premier dog-embarrasser in the hockey universe. The New York Rangers winger has posted several videos in which he sends his terrier, Mr. Riziy, scurrying around a room with some nifty stickhandling:
Artemi Panarin stickhandling around his dog is just what i needed on a Monday morning. pic.twitter.com/jXnZf3LXQR— Hockey Central (@HockeyCentraI) March 26, 2018
And he’s not alone. Last season the St. Louis Blues adopted a team puppy, Barclay, and let him loose on the ice at least once. In the video below, one player tries to get Barclay to chase a puck; he fails completely.
Pros: Beyond stickhandlers’ being able to move the puck faster than a dog can keep up with, hockey also brings the potential to embarrass your dog on ice, or as dogs presumably know it, ColdFloor. The dog population at large simply has no idea what to do with ColdFloor. They are intrigued by the temperature, but unprepared to deal with its slippiness, enhancing their already spectacular penchant for clumsiness. A relatively simple deke can leave a dog flopping in every which direction on the ice.
Cons: While other sports feature only a ball for a dog to chase, hockey introduces the potential for confusion by adding a very large stick. This poses a real dilemma for dogs, which happen to have an affinity for sticks. As you can see in the Blues video, Barclay is more intrigued with the sticks than anything else, eventually picking one up with his mouth. It’s tough to embarrass a dog when it’s chasing the wrong object.
I’d also imagine that playing hockey against a dog routinely leads to that dog’s getting smacked with the stick. Dogs are rough-and-tumble buddies that can handle a bonk from a ball or a pratfall on the ice, but a slap from a stick seems like it could cause actual pain. While Panarin can pull this off, I suspect a less-skilled stick handler would put a dog in harm’s way.
I know people love unlikely animal friendships, so here’s a video of a GOAT playing with a dog. It shows Lionel Messi keeping the ball away from Hulk, his comically large Dogue de Bordeaux.
Pros: Soccer is easily the sport in which dogs are the most competent. Actually, come to think of it, that’s definitely a con when it comes to dog embarrassment.
Cons: Videos of people playing basketball or hockey with dogs almost always show those humans embarrassing dogs. Videos of people playing soccer with dogs can sometimes look like two pals playing soccer:
Dogs can be legitimate contributors to a game of keepy-uppy, as shown by this video of Brazil’s Gabriel Barbosa playing soccer with a dog who might be better at soccer than he is.
This makes sense. Soccer is a game that takes away humans’ most skilled extremities, our hands. Dogs don’t have hands; they just have four feet. And they love booping stuff with their heads. Plus, soccer generally keeps the ball at dog-friendly heights.
Just watch the video of Messi. Even when one of the greatest soccer players of all time tries to play keep away with one of the slowest breeds of dog on the planet, he still commits a handball fewer than five seconds into his video. Soccer might be the most fun sport to play with your dog, but it’s by far the most difficult sport to embarrass a dog.
The evidence here is clear: The best sport for embarrassing your dog is basketball. It’s the least dangerous option of the bunch, and it’s the one in which dogs are least likely to succeed. While Air Bud glorifies the potential of a basketball-playing dog, dogs are clearly terrible at basketball in real life. Even the clumsiest human ball handlers can use their height and fairly simple deception tactics to turn dogs into And1 Mixtape Tour victims. Now get out there and posterize your pup.