published Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Wiedmer: King James could be a beast in NFL as well as NBA

LeBron James
LeBron James
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"... And starting at quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, on loan from the four-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat, the former pride of Akron, Ohio — LeBron James."

Crazy? Maybe. But that's the general dream of former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann, who told FOX Sports Florida last week, "Most quarterbacks, when they step on the field, look pretty much the same. But James doesn't look the same as anybody. I don't know if any humans look like him. There's never been a quarterback like him."

Most any NBA player who has ever tried to guard the 6-foot-8, 250-pound James would agree that no other human may look like him. The guy's already built like a linebacker, but more like one in a video game, where the biceps and waist are roughly the same size, the shoulders could hold up the Pentagon and the neck could double for an oil drum.

In other words, imagine one of those Transformer robot toys dressed in an NFL uniform and you've got a rough idea of what defenses would see if James lined up at QB across the line from them.

Yikes.

Nor does James outright dismiss the possibility of his success, even if most of us with even the slightest understanding of pro football believe that NFL quarterback is the most difficult position in team sports. Period.

"I have the ability," he said last week after the Heat took a 1-0 lead on the Indiana Pacers in their Eastern Conference final series, a series now knotted at 2-all headed into tonight's Game 5 in Miami.

"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."

"Decided" is, for now, the key word here. Decided is in the past, which means James wouldn't appear to seriously entertain any notion of changing sports or adding sports at the ripe young age of 28.

But could he do it is a different discussion. The history of professional sports had had more than a few athletes who have been gifted enough to play two sports at the highest levels.

Atlanta Braves and Falcons fans can vividly recall Deion Sanders starring on both teams. The whole country can recall the brief but brilliant two-sport career of Vincent "Bo" Jackson, who might have one day reached the Hall of Fame in both baseball and football if a hip injury hadn't too-soon ended his career in both sports. Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, who starred collegiately at Minnesota, was actually drafted by all three major leagues -- MLB, NBA and NFL -- but only played baseball.

Heck, actor Chuck Connors of "Rifleman" fame played basketball for the Rochester Royals and Boston Celtics and baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Chicago Cubs before becoming famous on the small screen.

But only two players in NBA history have also played in the NFL, though James is almost certainly familiar with one of them. At least he should be.

Former Minnesota Vikings coaching great Bud Grant and Cleveland Browns quarterback Otto Graham both played in both the NBA and NFL. In fact, Graham and Connors were both members of the Royals, which won the National Basketball League title in 1946 with both men on the roster.

But by 1950 -- while Grant was playing for the Minneapolis Lakers before later signing with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles -- Graham was on his way to leading the Browns to three NFL titles in six seasons. Prior to that, he won four titles for the Browns in four seasons in the All-America Football Conference before the franchise joined the NFL.

So if you're scoring at home, that's a total of eight championship rings that Graham helped win in two sports over 10 years, or seven more than James has at this moment from a single sport.

Nevertheless, it would no doubt short-circuit Nielsen ratings were James to someday join the NFL, especially as a quarterback.

This isn't to say receiver wouldn't be his best position. It's mind-boggling to imagine the success he could have at that position -- either wideout or tight end -- against all those 5-11 defensive backs, especially since he was an all-state wideout during his prep days in Ohio.

There's also the notion of what starring in the NFL might do to his basketball career if he attempted to play both sports. Beyond the way the NFL and NBA overlap, can you imagine how difficult it might be for James to draw a charge by flopping in front of a hoops zebra who had watched him bowl over a would-be tackler? So you're saying Nate Robinson knocked you down, King James? Laugh out loud.

But were James to follow in Graham's footsteps by joining the downtrodden Browns and somehow turn his home-state team into champions, Ohioans wouldn't just forgive him his bitter exit from Cleveland's Cavaliers, they might rename the city after him.

The Jamestown Browns. Catchy, huh?

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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chas9 said...

Ron Widby earned letters in four different sports at Knoxville U. Love multi-sport athletes. At 28 Lebron could still probably play some NFL position, but not QB. Yes, though, if he'd started earlier.

Apparently UK has only the seventh-best college basketball fans, behind #1 Louisville, Arizona, Duke, Arkansas, North Carolina and Texas. So says the Emory Sports Marketing Analytics.

May 30, 2013 at 10:20 a.m.
LaughingBoy said...

Cam Newton is similar.

May 30, 2013 at 12:57 p.m.
Stewwie said...

Has Theismann ever seen LBJ throw a football? If not, this is one crazy statement for him to make about LeBron and his chances at being an NFL QB. Any athletic freak can scramble around, but if you can't stay poised in the pocket and/or hit your targets with relatively good accuracy, you're not going to succeed in that position in the NFL.

May 30, 2013 at 2:12 p.m.
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