Another day, another instance of someone saying he could totally beat LeBron James in a game of one-on-one. When it's the greatest basketball player of all time saying he believes he'd take the Miami Heat superstar, you can certainly understand the bravado; when it's an athlete from another sport who's never played pro hoops, though, the claim's a bit harder to stomach.
And yet, by virtue of the Charlotte Observer's Jonathan Jones noticing Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy wearing a camouflage Miami Heat hat and deciding to ask the pass-rusher and former Ole Miss standout how he thought he'd fare in a game with James. Shockingly, Hardy — who, again, is a professional football player whose job requires him to be confident enough to believe that he will be the one inflicting dramatic damage on offensive players rather than being the one on the receiving end of it — thinks he'd be able to take the King's throne. From the Observer's Inside the Panthers blog:
Q: If you went 1-on-1 with LeBron who would win?
A: How should I answer this question? ... I would dominate that dude. Hands down, guaranteed win. And that’s my favorite player.
A: I’m a beast.
Well, that settles that, then — Hardy would win because he's a beast. Done and done.
To be fair, I'm not inclined to argue against the defensive end's beastliness — the fact that he's a 6-foot-4-inch, 290-pound pile of quick-twitch muscle and bad intentions capable of running a 4.72-second 40-yard dash and racking up 21 sacks in a three-plus-year NFL career speaks well to his bona fides there. Being strong enough to barge to the front of the rim is a pretty sound recipe for one-on-one dominance, and if Hardy — who, it's worth noting, did play some SEC basketball in his time at Mississippi, albeit not very impressively — could bully his way to the basket the way he blows up tackles en route to the backfield, then sure, he'd might stand a chance of holding his own against quite a number of more skilled players.
There's just one problem with that, as Jones notes — at a listed 250 pounds, it's not exactly like LeBron's someone that Hardy could just bull-rush on the court, and at 6-foot-8, James would hold a pretty massive four-inch height advantage over the former sixth-round NFL draft pick. (James' sheer size and strength is why many people, including Eddie Maisonet at SB Nation, picked him to take out an in-his-prime M.J. if the theoretical matchup were to ever take place.)
Hardy claims he'd counteract that with his springs — "I got like a 39-inch vertical," he claims, though that might be a few inches too generous. But with all due respect to a man who can legitimately throw down on a 10-foot-3-inch hoop:
... it's difficult to envision him having hops "drastic" enough to outjump this dude.
Still, Hardy thinks he'd come out on top, even if that initial "dominate" comment was a bit of an overreach. (Kind of like his stated preseason goal of notching 50 sacks this year.)
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"I’m not saying I would beast him, but I would definitely win, I got a good shot, I got good handles, I got good size," Hardy said. "[...] I feel I have a lot of the same tools he has and it would come down to who was the better basketball player."
And despite all James' accolades, Hardy's pretty sure that'd be him, in a competitive contest. "Probably 11-9," if they were playing to 21 by ones. We're sure the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player is already diligently preparing for Hardy's eventual challenge ... or, y'know, just getting ready for another run at a fourth straight NBA finals appearance and third consecutive championship. Either way, really.
Hat-tip to CBSSports.com's Will Brinson.