The odds of most NBA players making a successful transition to the NFL are the equivalent of them making a length-of-the-court heave. But not for Miami Heat superstar LeBron James. It's a virtual slam dunk that he'd become one of the NFL's best tight ends the moment he signed a contract.
James caused a stir in the Twitterverse Tuesday when he inquired about the NFL deadline for free-agent signings. Harmless fun after the NBA canceled the first two weeks of the regular season? Perhaps. But if he's at all serious about trading his headband and sneakers for a helmet and cleats, he'd garner interest from plenty of teams.
We're talking about a 6-foot-8, 250-pound athlete with freakish athleticism, speed and hands. That combination of size, coordination and agility would make him a nightmare for any defensive back and most linebackers. Even if James was used primarily as a red-zone specialist, featured when his team neared the opponent's end zone, he'd have a dramatic impact on games.
James is no stranger to the gridiron. He played wide receiver in high school and was first-team all-state … as a sophomore. Observers had no questions about James' football talents back then. Hall of Fame safety Mark Murphy ranked him with James Lofton, Jerry Rice and Steve Largent as "my top receivers" ever.
James wouldn't be the first cross-sport superstar. Deion Sanders played in the Super Bowl and the World Series. Bo Jackson played in baseball's All-Star Game and the NFL's Pro Bowl. Danny Ainge and, to a much lesser extent, Michael Jordan played some professional baseball in addition to their NBA careers. But James' potential as an all-world NBA and NFL player is mind-boggling.
The first hint that football was on his mind came last week, when he suited up with his former high school's team to practice. The quarterback said that James "caught everything; he didn't drop a pass. I probably threw six or seven passes his way, and he went up and got everything."
Not to suggest that facing St. Vincent-St. Mary High in practice is comparable to NFL defenses in real games. But the results would be similar if James made the switch.
Then all his nasty slam dunks would be on the goalposts.
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