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Ex-NFL player Devin Funchess eyeing switch to NBA, says playing pro basketball was a ‘dream’ growing up

Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess has been thinking about giving a different game his best shot.

Funchess has spent the last couple of NFL seasons on a practice squad or has only seen action in the preseason. 

While the former second-round pick considers the next steps in his football career, he is entertaining a future in basketball.

“When it comes to my love and my passion, I love the game of basketball,” Funchess said in an interview with Bally Sports.

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CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 10: Devin Funchess #17 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings in the third quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 10, 2017, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

CHARLOTTE, NC – DECEMBER 10: Devin Funchess #17 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings in the third quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 10, 2017, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Funchess played for the Panthers in 2015 when the team appeared in Super Bowl 50. But he has not played a down in the league in a regular-season game since 2019, when he was on the Colts roster.

Teams may also be cautious when it comes to potentially signing the 28-year-old because he does not play special teams. Funchess mentioned that his agents have had conversations with multiple teams, but his prospects seem lukewarm.

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Funchess said he grew up playing basketball, but he ultimately decided to pursue a professional football career. He mentioned that he would be open to playing overseas if it would enhance his odds of making it to the NBA.

“As in my transition from dwindling down in the NFL, being an eight-year vet — I’m still 28 years old. I can still go through something. I know I’d have to go overseas and play, get some film. But after that, my dream growing up was to play in the NBA. That’s my main goal and that’s what I’m gonna make happen.”

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - NOVEMBER 10: Devin Funchess #17 of the Indianapolis Colts on the sidelines before the game against the Miami Dolphins at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 10, 2019, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – NOVEMBER 10: Devin Funchess #17 of the Indianapolis Colts on the sidelines before the game against the Miami Dolphins at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 10, 2019, in Indianapolis, Indiana.
(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Funchess had an up and down career in Carolina, the high-point came during 2017 season in which he emerged as the team’s top receiver.

He became quarterback Cam Newton’s primary target, hauling in 63 passes for over 800 yards. Newton was named the NFL MVP in 2015.

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 28: Devin Funchess #17 of the Carolina Panthers signals first down after making a catch against the Baltimore Ravens during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 28, 2018, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

CHARLOTTE, NC – OCTOBER 28: Devin Funchess #17 of the Carolina Panthers signals first down after making a catch against the Baltimore Ravens during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 28, 2018, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

If he made the jump, Funchess would not be the first athlete to play in the NFL and the NBA. 

Bud Grant was drafted by the Eagles in the first-round of the NFL Draft in 1950 and went on to play for the Lakers. The NBA team was based out of Minneapolis at the time.

Browns quarterback Otto Graham went on to win a championship in the National Basketball League.

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Funchess hoped to revitalize his career this year when he decided to switch to the tight end position after joining the Detroit Lions. However, he was released in the preseason.


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