LeBron James’ tantalizing physical skills have often made some people wonder how he would fare on the gridiron. At 6-foot-9, 250 pounds, his size, speed and jumping ability are tailor-made for the tight-end position.
During the 2011 NBA lockout, it almost happened.
James said he considered playing football during the NBA lockout. He and his trainer started to clock his 40-yard dash time and prepare for an opportunity in case of a prolonged lockout.
“To be honest, it actually was,” James said on the Uninterrupted’s “WRTS: After Party,” when asked if football was ever a thought for him that year. “I had no idea how long the lockout was going to be and myself and my trainer, [Mike] Mancias, we really started to actually train to be a football player when it came to October and November."
Teams would have lined up to sign James. Don’t believe it? James’ longtime friend Maverick Carter said that James has an unsigned contract from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in his office. And if James’ fandom would have factored into the decision, he would’ve been catching passes from Tony Romo in Dallas.
James was an all-state wide receiver in high school. He caught 57 passes for 1,160 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior. He compiled 27 total touchdowns and 99 catches while becoming a two-time all-state selection his sophomore and junior seasons. He didn’t play football his senior year due to a wrist injury that placed his focus solely on basketball.
“The biggest thing about him playing football was the worry that he would get hurt, but you would see him out there and it’s like, he’s not the guy that’s going to get hurt. It’s the guys he’s going against,” Matt McDonald, one of James’ high school quarterbacks said in a 2017 story via Bleacher Report. “It’s at a point where he was so much better than everyone else that not even the big guys could hurt him.”
Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates and Julius Thomas are three tight ends that became Pro Bowlers after having collegiate basketball careers. James would have fit into that mold and been a matchup nightmare. Too big for safeties and corners and too fast for linebackers.
An elbow injury last season caused Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to declare that he wasn’t going to shave again until he could throw a legit NFL pass. After gaining a beard that made him look like Santa Claus, Big Ben delivered a gift to Steelers fans yesterday.
Roethlisberger’s return is a sigh of relief for Pittsburgh. He was fresh off a 2018 season where he led the league in passing yards, completions and attempts. He was the leader in interceptions too, but the six-time Pro Bowler is a major upgrade over Mason Rudolph.
Last season’s Steelers defense finished third in the NFL in yardage allowed. A healthy Roethlisberger with James Connor and Juju Smith-Schuster puts Pittsburgh right back into contention for the AFC crown.
Elbow injuries are nothing to sniff at for a quarterback, but if you have lingering concerns, look no further than Smith-Schuster’s reaction in the workout video.
“He’s back, stay tuned,” Smith-Schuster said.