LeBron James once was presented with the opportunity of playing NFL football, and while the sport switch never happened on the field, that hasn’t stopped some from wondering about what it may have looked like.
How good would James have been if he elected to come off the sidelines and suit up in the league? That’s been the subject of many debates the last few decades, and once again it came to the forefront in the media. Recently, on ESPN’s Get Up, the question was asked how James would do playing football and former NBA player Kendrick Perkins thinks the answer is pretty good.
How good? Well, as good as newly-minted Hall of Fame wideout Calvin Johnson when he played for the Detroit Lions.
“Look, he would have dominated. I’m talking about Megatron-style. You’re talking about a 6-9, 250 pound wideout that had a 4.3 speed, good 40 inch vertical. Who was stopping him? It sure wouldn’t have been Dominque Foxworth. I wish Foxworth would have lined up against LeBron James because he would have got that work.”
Foxworth, of course, disagreed that James would be fast enough to hang with some of the top wideouts and cornerbacks in the league, but did say he felt as if he would be an All-Pro wideout had he ever decided to make the jump into the league.
Johnson had 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns in his career to go with 731 receptions, which was good enough to get him into the Hall of Fame. As great an athlete as James is, it’s tough to proclaim he would have been as good as Johnson or better in the NFL given all the factors at play.
In the end, it’s a good thing James stuck with basketball, or there would never be this excellent generation of hoops that folks have been privileged to watch with James as the centerpiece. if he was an All-Pro wide receiver, that still wouldn’t hold a candle to perhaps being the greatest basketball player of all-time.
LeBron James’ Football Career
James did play football in high school and he was a solid player when doing so. As ESPN writer Tim Graham revealed in 2009, James caught 27 touchdowns and had Notre Dame and Ohio State’s attention as a football player. Obviously, he didn’t come close to dominating as he has on the basketball court, but there was enough talent there to open the eyes of colleges and then later, several NFL teams. According to recent reports, both the Cowboys and Seahawks were interested in James playing football circa 2011, even though he never considered switching sports like Michael Jordan did with baseball during the middle of his career.
There’s no question James is a special athlete and made a compelling case to be as good a two-sport star as there ever would have been.
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Calvin Johnson’s Career With Lions
There’s no question that Johnson was a gold standard for NFL wideouts which led to him recently cracking Canton, Ohio. Over his career, there were few people more productive who changed the game the way Johnson did. He was a physical specimen and also had the stats to match in order to prove his dominance over others who played his position at the time.
After breaking into the league with the Lions back in 2007 when he was a top pick in that season’s draft, Johnson didn’t hesitate to put up great plays and amazing statistics. In his career, Johnson managed a total of 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns and more than that, was a human highlight reel unlike many other receivers he matches up with on the list. That’s similar to the impact Barry Sanders made. Out of Georgia Tech in college, Johnson was labeled as one of the freakiest players in the draft and he lived up to that distinction in the NFL at nearly every single turn right up until the moment he retired after the 2015 season. It’s rare to see a player not only live up to his draft potential but exceed it, and Johnson did.
Johnson shattered Jerry Rice’s record of 1,848 receiving yards during the 2012 season on the field and was constantly a great player for the team, often playing through pain and discomfort to the delight of his fans. Much like Sanders, Johnson never complained and simply went about his business. That’s why he remains one of the most revered players in franchise history to this day.
Whether or not James would have been as good is a mystery, even though some folks believe that would be the case.