Photo credits: Bleacher Report

Could LeBron James Really Have Played in the NFL?

With the absence of sports, particularly the NBA, due to the coronavirus pandemic, basketball fans around the world have come up with several debate topics relating to the Association in order to pass the time before the league comes back.  Of course, there’s the old “MJ vs. LeBron: Who’s The Greatest?” argument that resurfaced following the airing of “The Last Dance”, a 10-part documentary on Jordan’s career with the Chicago Bulls, on ESPN.  Then there’s the debate over which return setup the NBA should take to resume its season: either the league goes back to its normal season and starts next season later, the teams jump straight into the playoffs, or the playoff system changes, with the playoff teams being seeded 1-16 regardless of conference.

But arguably the most fascinating is the debate as to whether LeBron James, who, as mentioned above, is in the greatest of all time argument with Michael Jordan, could have played in the National Football League.  Some people say he couldn’t hack it; others argue that he could have been a top-10 player of all time.

Where did this sudden claim and debate come from?

Firstly, we need to acknowledge that it’s not sudden at all.  Back at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s, Bron’s high school in Akron, Ohio, he was a football STUD.  And everyone knows this, because in his high school days, he was literally the top football prospect in the state of Ohio; according to an Instagram post on his official account which unveiled his high school football stats, James clocked in at 6 foot 8 inches, 232 pounds, and ran a 4.6-second 40-yard dash.  He had caught 60 passes for 1200 yards in his junior year and tallied 16 touchdowns.  One Ohio journalist termed him as “a taller, slower version of Randy Moss”, a Hall of Fame wide receiver.

With all that being said, we now can’t deny that any university would have wanted him, especially those in the Power Five conferences (for those who don’t know, the Pac 12, Big 12, Big Ten, ACC, and SEC).  In fact, he was recruited by a lot of Division I programs, one of which being Notre Dame, which has been known throughout its history as a college football powerhouse.  If he continued his performances, he could have been selected high in the NFL Draft, just like he was in the NBA right after high school.

But of course, in any sport, the highest picks aren’t the best picks.  In the NFL, JaMarcus Russell, the first overall pick of 2007, is considered one of the worst first selections of all time, especially since he was taken right after Calvin Johnson, who is in the conversation for one of the greatest wide receivers of all time.  But does this tell us much?

Another aspect of LeBron James’ athletic profile we need to look at is, of course, his athleticism.  To excel in both basketball and football means that someone is quite the athlete, as basketball and American football are arguably two of the most athletic sports, particularly in the positions James plays in basketball (as a point guard or forward) and those he would’ve played in the NFL (wide receiver, maybe even a tight end).  James’ sheer athleticism is almost ridiculous; the raw combination he has of speed, strength, and size he has allows him to play whichever sport he wants, according to both Bleacher Report and those who argue in favor of James’ sports switch.

The speed, however, is the key aspect.  He may not have the speed necessary to keep up with the league’s best cornerbacks, which could probably see him eliminate himself from the wide receiver position.  This leads to the idea that he would be much better at tight end, and there’s wide consideration of Bron in this position: according to Bleacher Report, one NFL GM said that LBJ would have been “Rob Gronkowski before Rob Gronkowski…He would have set records every season.”

Let’s say James played two years of college.  He would have been taken in the 2006 NFL draft, and if he was as good as he was in high school, he would have probably been super hyped.  I mean, like the 2006 Joe Burrow.  The first pick in this draft was Mario Williams, a Pro Bowl defensive end who was drafted by the Houston Texans.  The highest drafted tight end?  Vernon Davis, a Super Bowl champion and two-time Pro Bowler who was selected by the San Francisco 49ers.  Wouldn’t it have been interesting to see Bron in the Bay?

I think LeBron James could have made it into the NFL.  100%.  However, I doubt whether he would be good enough if he switched over now to the NFL.  He’s getting old, and football is a completely different game than basketball.  If he was in his Miami Heat days when he switched over, he would have been a serious problem for all NFL defenses though.  Even if he never played basketball, he’d still be the globally recognizable athlete that he is today, like at a Tom Brady sort of level.  Just the raw athleticism James has could have made a huge upgrade to any NFL team that picked him up.

James himself has always professed his love for football, and has said that he would like to play in an NFL game, even if it’s only one.  He also has stated his dream to play for his childhood team, the Dallas Cowboys.  Who knows, maybe AT&T Stadium will see LeBron James, a player widely considered one of the greatest ever in basketball, take the field for America’s Team one day!

Do you think LeBron James could have hacked it in the NFL?  Contact us your thoughts down below!

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