The NFL draft combine, for those of us that aren’t obsessed with or into pro football, is an uneasy watch. Other sports have either combines or private workouts, but basing the first (sometimes unguaranteed) contract of an athlete’s career mostly on his televised showing in an arena two months before the draft commences feels odd in a way that doesn’t seem comparable to, say, judging a draftee’s prospects in June based on his showing on CBS during the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA basketball tournament.
Toss in the Manti Te’o circus, one that has been embarrassing for all involved (Manti, Notre Dame fans, fishermen, journalists, Twitter jokesters), and you have an unseemly charade that feels like it should be hosted by Jim Gray. Which is why, of course, LeBron James decided to chime in about Manti’s unimpressive sprint time that he registered at the NFL’s show on Tuesday. From Sun-Sentinel Heat reporter Ira Winderman:
LeBron on his 4.6 40 that he pointed out was without training, "It's better than Manti Te'o, I'll tell you that."
— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) February 26, 2013
Someone (hopefully reading, so I can source him or her) pointed out on Twitter recently that they would rather watch LeBron James work through the various skill challenges during a football combine than the dunk contests that LBJ has refused to enter, and perhaps never will. That’s understandable, dunks are fleeting things while athleticism is often more breathtaking to behold in other, more disparate formats.
Still, we much prefer these two athletes at their best. Te’o, stalking the middle of the field – leading a defense and far from concerned with pointless sprint times and cable television-addled defaults of character. LeBron James, who certainly knows something about both aspects associated with Te’o, is much more appealing when given the ball and a Heat uniform as he works his way through perhaps the best month of basketball we’ve ever seen anyone come through with.
As was the case last June and is the case this month with LeBron James, it’s going to be nice to see Manti Te’o back at his best again. We just hope LeBron and others can show a little patience and hide a few more easy cracks as he works his way back toward feeling comfortable in cleats again.