Posted October 19, 2013

Heat’s LeBron James expresses desire to play in NFL game before he retires

Ben Golliver, LeBron James, Miami Heat, National Football League
(State Farm)

LeBron James has long possessed a love for the game of football. (State Farm)

LeBron James’ lengthy flirtation with professional football has added yet another chapter, as the four-time NBA MVP said Friday that he would like to crossover to the National Football League, even if just for one night.

“I wanna play one NFL game before it’s over,” James wrote during a Twitter question and answer session with fans.

The love affair between James and the gridiron dates back to his schoolboy days in football-crazed Ohio.

In Sports Illustrated’s first cover story on James, dated Feb. 18, 2002, Grant Wahl writes that the country’s most-prized hoops prospect had talked his mother into letting him continue playing on his high school football team.

LeBron may be the reason for the hysteria, but he isn’t your typical high school hoops phenom. For the last two years, in fact, he has risked career-threatening injury as an all-state wide receiver on the St. Vincent-St. Mary football team. At first Gloria refused to let LeBron play last fall, but after the 22-year-old singer Aaliyah died in a plane crash last August, he persuaded her to let him play. “You’re not promised tomorrow,” LeBron says. “I had to be out on the field with my team.” Though LeBron did break the index finger of his left (nonshooting) hand, he helped lead the Irish to the state semifinals.

Although James later gave up football and entered the NBA straight from high school, he has long said that he would have attended Ohio State University, one of the country’s dominant football powerhouses, had he gone to college. While attending a September game in Columbus, Oh., James said that he loves football “more than basketball” during an interview televised by ESPN.

In a 2009 commercial for State Farm Insurance, James calls football “my first love” before announcing that he would sign with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. The ad depicted James catching passes, blocking field goals and dunking the ball over the goalpost.

During the NBA’s 2011 lockout, James joined fellow NBA player Nate Robinson in exploring the NFL landscape. James asked one NFL writer on Twitter about the deadline for signing with an NFL team, while Robinson told Slam Magazine that he “might go play football” if the lockout dragged on.

A noted fan of the Dallas Cowboys, James attended a September game between the Cowboys and the New York Giants at Cowboys Stadium. Before the game, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told 105.3 FM in Dallas that he wished James played tight end for the Cowboys.

“I hope to see Lebron,” Jones said. “I just wish I could suit him out.”

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant also vouched for James’ football abilities.

“I think it would take him probably about a good two weeks to get very acquainted with football, knowing what he’s supposed to do,” Bryant told ESPNDallas.com in August. “I think that’s all he’d need with his physical ability. I’ve seen a little bit of his highlights from high school. He’s got the hands, he can run the routes, he’s fast enough. He could play in this league if he put it all together.”

James’ best football position has been a matter of some debate. Tight end and wide receiver usually get mentioned first, given James’ 6-foot-8, 250-pound listed measurements and his high school experience. NFL writer Bill Barnwell of Grantland.com has argued that James might also work well as a pass-rushing defensive end.

Joe Theismann, the former quarterback of Washington’s football team, even suggested recently that James could be a signal-caller.

“I would love to work him out and also serve as his agent,” Theismann told Fox Sports Florida back in May. “I’ll go wherever he wants this summer. He could play another four years in the NBA before seriously trying the NFL. … There are not a lot of 38- or 39-year-old basketball players, but there are 38- and 39-year-old quarterbacks, so there’s always time for him.”

James told the site at the time that he thought he could have made it as a quarterback if he had selected football over basketball at a younger age.

“I have the ability,” he said. “I can see and read plays. I study a lot, so I know defenses and things of that nature. So I would have been pretty good if I had decided to go for it.”

The timing of James’ most recent comment is interesting, even if by pure coincidence. The Heat enter the 2013-14 season in search of their third consecutive title, and James has the opportunity to secure a third consecutive Finals MVP award. Bulls legend Michael Jordan announced his (first) retirement in October 1993 after leading Chicago to three straight titles and winning three straight Finals MVP awards. Jordan then briefly pursued a career in professional baseball, chasing his own childhood love for the sport as well as his father’s dream that his son would be a Major League Baseball player.

When Jordan walked away from basketball the first time, he said that “the desire just isn’t there” because he “[didn't] have anything left to prove.” His agent David Falk later said that baseball was “like an adult fantasy camp” for his client and that Jordan was pursuing the sport for “the fun and challenge.” Jordan has said in interviews that he gained a new mental strength from his baseball struggles, and that he finally acquired perspective on his basketball abilities by stepping away from the game.

James’ comments on the subject of football — brief and wistful as they are — don’t necessarily suggest that he would pursue the sport for the reasons Jordan eventually sought refuge in baseball. Indeed, with Jordan’s Greatest Of All Time legacy hanging over his every move, James seems as locked into his NBA standing as ever.

But as with his other regular object of flirtation, the Slam Dunk Contest, there could come a point in James’ life where football becomes a subject of both love and regret. Imagining a retired James reflecting on his career, you can’t help but think that he will wish that he had actually participated in the Slam Dunk Contest, instead of just talking about it and making commercials about it. In that same vein, an unscratched football itch is only going to fester, not fade.

The NBA could face a lockout in 2017, at which point James would be 32 years old, with roughly $200 million in NBA salary in the bank, and possibly five championship rings on his fingers. At that point, the risks that troubled his mother all the way back in high school would be essentially erased. His legacy as one of the game’s all-time greats would be secure, and he would still be in prime athletic shape. Logistically, James could get in at least one game by early September, months before training camp during a lockout-shortened season would theoretically begin. With the connections and star power to land a contract at a moment’s notice, why not approach the summer of 2017 as a field trip into the NFL?

Why not engineer a sports media universe meltdown that would rival Jordan’s 1993 press conference? Why not enjoy the peace of mind that would come with knocking that “one NFL game” dream off of his bucket list when the league and the players union waste everyone’s time battling it out in the boardroom? Remember, as a wise philosopher once noted: “You’re not promised tomorrow.”

Hat tip: CBSSports.com

61 comments
Djuki
Djuki

salutations dear friends

DavidDarnowsky
DavidDarnowsky

Here are ten reasons why it would be a bad idea for Lebron to try to play in the NFL:

1.) There is no crying and flopping in football. 2.) Chris Bosh won't be there to kiss his "boo-boos" and "Ouchies", to make them feel better. 3.) Brett Favre might get jealous and try to break out of the Wranglers Jeans' retirement home, to make another NFL comeback. The NFL does not need a quarterback, in Favre, that is eligible for social security and Medicaid. Plus, if Brett Favre came back, John Madden would get way too excited and would have to go to the emergency room, for having an erection lasting longer than four hours. 4.) If Lebron's team makes it to the Superbowl, Manu Ginobili won't be there to hand his team the game. 5.) Manti Te'o would lose sleep, worrying whether or not his girlfriend was sleeping with Lebron. 6.) Tim Tebow needs a buddy to watch footoball with on Sundays. 7.) Lebron is too tall to master the "Mark Sanchez Butt-Fumblerooski." 8.) Bill Belichick and Tom Brady would have way too fun much spying on Lebron, in the opposing locker-room....even more fun then they had spying on Ray Lewis singing broadway show tunes in the shower. 9.) Rex Ryan, Tony Romo, Rob Ryan, Mike Ditka, Tom Brady, Bob Costas, and Andy Reid would not want the extra competition from Lebron, at the annual, end of the season, NFL Drag Queen Show. 10.) Lebron will get flagged constantly for "roughing the hairline." Bonus Jokes: 11.) Troy Polamalu would have a hard time explainging to Lebron, that Head and Shoulders can't help Lebron with his hairline issues. 12.) Kobe would be very mad at Lebron for leaving the NBA, because they wouldn't be able to have their fun sleepovers (where Chris Bosh pretends to be the mother) the night before Heat-Laker games. 13.) The nerds who make the Madden Games, would have a hard time creating a "flop" option for Lebron's Character.

Jerry11
Jerry11

Go play now . . . get your head taken off.  

Blinker
Blinker

Break a leg....   literally.   

Hail QUEEN James

mystafugee
mystafugee

Lebron could easily play in the NFL, you see basketball players who aren't good enough to play in the NBA transition to the NFL (Gonzalez, Graham, Gates).  As for the flopping, he'd fit right in with NFL receivers trying to get the ref to throw flags for pass interference.  

Hawkdad
Hawkdad

Another entitled athlete thinking a skillset would transition to another sport.


PrinceNguyen
PrinceNguyen

Please play against SF 49ers, someone know his A$$ out!

Hawkdad
Hawkdad

Lebron clearly a moron.  He would get broken in half.


Dave C
Dave C

Who cares...what a jerk

Lohikaarme
Lohikaarme

He wants to bring the art of flopping to the NFL.

lionoah
lionoah

Let's see how that might work out...

---

LEBRON JAMES SIGNS CONTRACT WITH THE DALLAS COWBOYS! WILL PLAY IN THE FOURTH PRESEASON GAME!

After years of speculation and a summer of working with several retired NFL players, Lebron James is all set to realize his dream of playing in an NFL game. Lebron has mentioned in passing for years that he would like to suit up and play a single game in the NFL, and with the current NBA lockout James has the opportunity. He has been said to have been working out at Ohio State University with a number of college and retired players. One of the players who worked out with James commented (off the record) that 'his knowledge of the intricacies of the game lacks, but his physical attributes are off the charts'. Another anonymous player said that '[he] could play any number of positions based on his physical skills and strength alone'.

James issued the following statement regarding his opportunity to play with the Cowboys:

"This is a lifetime dream come true that I take very seriously. With the NBA lockout, the opportunity to do something I love and also stay in shape presented itself and I am very excited about this. I very well understand the risks involved however my family is fully on board with this decision. I have been working out the last several months and feel as though I am ready to give 100%. That said, I think this will be a lot of fun for everyone involved".

A defensive player on another team responded "As hard as I can just like anybody else. He's just a man, but you better be sure to wrap up a guy like that." when asked how he would go about tackling a 6' 8" tight end. James' size and quickness would seem to pose a challenge for your typical defensive back who will give up about 60 pounds and 8 inches or more in size. Another defensive player when reached remarked that James' size 'would make it harder to stop the pass but easier to tackle because he presents a bigger target'. Of course that remains to be seen.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has never missed an opportunity to promote his franchise, has taken considerable criticism from other owners and media circles. Jones however sees nothing wrong with James playing in a game with relatively little meaning.

"Lebron approached us at the beginning of the NBA lockout about playing for the Cowboys and I thought it was a brilliant idea. Frankly Lebron brings a lot to the table and we are looking at this as a very positive opportunity for the Cowboys franchise."

When asked to address the concerns that perhaps an undrafted rookie or a fringe roster spot might be compromised Jones was quick to retort, "Our coaching and front office are fully on-board with this move. Our players and fans are very excited to see what he can do on the field. It's a curiosity for everyone involved and for those who are watching."

Indeed, whichever preseason game James participates in are sure to break advertising and viewership records for a preseason NFL game. There have been reports that the revenue for some advertising spots are reaching Superbowl levels.



GregSamick
GregSamick

Why?  So LeBron can "choke" in the NFL too.

How much attention do you need, Lebron?

closetjaysfan
closetjaysfan

Sadly, with how soft the game has become with all the hitting changes, he probably could play.

Jon8
Jon8

Insanity, and Theisman and Dez Bryant are fools!!!

M as in Mancy
M as in Mancy

He'll be a flop. We've seen how Lebron takes contact from basketball players. In training camp, the first 6th round pick at safety who's hungry to make the team will remind him he's in the wrong sport.

ohitikta
ohitikta

I can't think of a team that would sign him for only one game.  He's not going to play special teams, and I could see him trying to avoid as much of training camp as possible.  That would make him a 32 year old rookie receiver with incomplete knowledge of the offensive game plan that is 14 years removed from his last football game.  And don't forget, that game was at the high school level. 

Terry
Terry

@Hawkdad 

You're another frustrated former "athlete" who doesn't understand why your "hustle" game wasn't enough to get you LeBron type money.

Let it go.

Bitter is a bad look for everybody.

sulgorae
sulgorae

@Hawkdad What's so "entitled" about the guy?  You act like he he got his hand-eye coordination from an estate sale.   He's bigger, faster, and stronger than most humans, and is really good at throwing and catching a ball.  I feel like you have deeper problems with him.  Tell us more.

mystafugee
mystafugee

@Hawkdad Unless he's talking about playing QB or kicker/punter, there really isn't a big skill set in the NFL unless you consider catching a pass a "skill" which in the NBA is considered just something you should already know how to do.  

mystafugee
mystafugee

@Hawkdad By who?  You act like Lebron would be out there in a basketball uniform.  He's 6-8 and all muscle.  

Cool
Cool

@Lohikaarme Do you watch the NFL?  Did you know that "flopping" has become just as common there as it is in the NBA?  NBA players do it to draw fouls, and NFL players to it to slow down play.  He would not be bringing anything new to the NFL.

M20
M20

@lionoah I see you've thought this through...

Terry
Terry

@GregSamick 

You don't have to like the guy or his game, but don't allow your dislike to shine a spot light on your ignorance.

It makes you look petty.

Cool
Cool

@GregSamick Take a quick look at both your hands, then go though every dresser drawer, and every trophy cabinet, and then a drive to the bank to look in your lock box, and then come back and tell us how many NBA Championship rings you possess, and then choke on your answer, you idiot.

djm4672
djm4672

@GregSamick Clearly you didn't watch any basketball for the past two years.

sulgorae
sulgorae

@Jon8 yes, you know more about football than Joe Theisman and Dez Bryant combined.

Jim C1
Jim C1

@M as in Mancy He flops because it is part of the game and to work the refs--all of the best players work it to some degree. Doesn't make him "soft" at all.

barjona
barjona

@M as in Mancy He's 6'8" 270 lbs and built like a tank... I'm not saying he's actually going to play football (I think that's pretty ridiculous at this point) or that he'd be good at it but he's the size of a D lineman.

barjona
barjona

@ohitikta but just think about throwing him jump balls in the end zone... every QB's dream.

M as in Mancy
M as in Mancy

@mystafugee @Hawkdad I doubt a guy on the roster bubble gives a **** about how big you are. And your All-Pro LBs and Safeties certainly don't...

I think you and him underestimate how tough and hungry football players really are. Especially when it's their livelihood on the line

M as in Mancy
M as in Mancy

@Cool @Lohikaarme Whether he does it on purpose or not, when Lebron hits the deck from a hip check by Rajon Rondo like a sniper got him leads me to think he should stick to hoops. Mean Joe Greene has a semi chub right now and he's in his 60s.

JoePhenorkee
JoePhenorkee

@barjona @M as in Mancy Oh and all those Tight ends built similar and getting hurt are.....? Please a DB or Safety will cut his knee and he will be done or nail him into a concussion