LeBron James is the most successful athlete in the United States right now, so it's only natural for people to wonder if he could excel in this country's most popular league, the NFL.
Yes, he could. Or at least could have had he dedicated himself to the sport instead of basketball. Take a look at the Miami Heat's star and reigning NBA MVP in a football uniform and shoulder pads. At the first sight of him in that getup, any NFL general manager would sign him on the spot.
James is an enormous man. He is listed at 6-8, 250 pounds but it's very unlikely he's 250. James has been very elusive about his real weight, which has been estimated between 270 and all the way up to 300 pounds. Calvin Johnson, a physical marvel at receiver, is 6-5, 236 pounds. Jadeveon Clowney, a defensive end who is the most talked-about defensive prospect in years, is 6-6, 274 pounds.
James claims that he ran a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, and that's without training for it. If you've seen him run the floor it's easy to believe that. His vertical leap has been estimated between 40 and 44 inches. Only two players at this year's NFL combine jumped 41 inches or higher. He'd be one of the NFL's best athletes.
And when he put on a football uniform in conjunction with him giving new uniforms to his alma mater, Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary School, he looked ready to go line up in the NFL.
James looks like a giant in the photo above posted by Fox Sports columnist Bill Reiter. Reiter is 5-9, which is exactly what Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu measured at the combine, for comparison.
The topic of James and the NFL has always been interesting because before he decided to play basketball full time, he was all-state as a sophomore receiver in high school. And that's saying something in Ohio. He also helped lead his team to the state semifinals as a junior. An injury on the AAU basketball circuit before his senior season ended his football career.
Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (another "big" receiver who at 6-2, 222 pounds is dwarfed by James), told ESPNDallas.com this month that James could play in the NFL:
"That dude is just that talented," Bryant told ESPNDallas.com. "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. 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."
We'll never find out, because James isn't going to pull a Jordan-like switch and try football. But it's a fun debate. It's especially enjoyable for NFL defenders who don't have to worry how to deal with a 6-8 target who is probably about 40 pounds heavier than the unstoppable Calvin Johnson. Oh, and he can jump higher than most players in the NFL. Good luck battling him in the red zone.
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