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Grantland Wonders "Could LeBron James Really Play in the NFL?"

There’s no denying the athletic prowess of NBA superstar LeBron James. With his athleticism displayed over both basketball and football over the course of his youth, it was eventually basketball that won out. With a hulking 6-foot-9 frame tipping the scales north of 255 pounds, the Akron, Ohio native has become virtually unstoppable on the court based on physicality alone. However, there still leaves a big question mark posed by many, but carefully calculated by Grantland’s Bill Barnwell — “Could LeBron James Really Play in the NFL?” To Barnwell, it’s that very frame that seems to be a disadvantage on the gridiron, as injuries and durability calling into question LeBron’s effectiveness. Several real-life examples help support the argument which you can imagine contains a relatively small sample of physical beasts. Could LeBron James really follow into the footsteps of other multi-sport athletes and become an instant All-Star and impact player? Head over to Grantland to see the full assessment with the opening three paragraphs of the article below.

LeBron James is a freak athlete and a superstar capable of doing close to anything he wants on a basketball court. LeBron James was a very good wide receiver when he played high school football. Therefore, LeBron James would be an excellent pro football player if he ever decided to follow in Michael Jordan’s footsteps and switch sports midcareer. Right? That’s the story that has gone around for years, with many sharing the opinion expressed by Dez Bryant on Friday: James would be a “beast” of a player, most likely at tight end. Bryant even said he thinks it would take James just “two weeks” to get down the technique of being a receiver. Can it really be so simple?

I’m skeptical. I don’t doubt James’s athleticism, work ethic, or toughness, but there’s more to switching sports than it might seem. In fact, some aspects of James that translate well to basketball might actually be a net negative in football. And in the long run, I suspect that if he did move to football, he might be better off at a different position.

Perhaps the biggest thing that would hold James back from being an excellent football player for a long time would be the same thing that helps him excel as a mismatch in basketball: his height. James is listed at 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds, but there have been suggestions that he has grown since arriving in the league, to around 6-foot-9 and the 255- to 275-pound range. It doesn’t really matter. In either case, while LeBron’s height would make him a terror on jump balls1 in the end zone (as Bryant suggested), his height would also leave him susceptible to something he doesn’t have to fend off in basketball:2 an endless stream of defenders diving at his knees and ankles. Health is a skill, and as a player, protecting yourself from injuries is part of the job. With James’s size and strength, safeties would likely resort to diving at his ankles and knees to bring him down, increasing his risk of injury. It might not be physically possible for a player that size to protect himself from low hits downfield.

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