As I was flipping through channels, I came across this debate on how good LeBron James could’ve been if he decided to go for pro football instead of pro basketball.
It was too good to pass up, so I decide to have some fun and compare James to the wide receivers of my team, the New York Giants.
As the New York Giants enter the 2013 season, they are stacked at receiver with Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Rueben Randle, and their new stud at tight end, Brandon Myers. Eli Manning has arguably the best receiving corps to throw to this season and there is no doubt the Giants will be stout offensively.
But let’s play the what if game for a little bit of fun. What if LeBron James was rocking the Giant blue, instead of a headband had a Giants helmet and instead of throwing up powder in the beginning of a basketball game, he raised a tree out of the ground of MetLife Stadium.
Okay maybe not even LeBron could perform that final task, but let’s imagine James was a wide receiver and compare him to the Giants of today.
James entered the 2003 NBA Draft, forgoing his eligibility at college basketball, but to put this in perspective, lets say James was entertaining college football recruiters. Since James broke his wrist before his senior season, we will use his statistics up until that moment. As a sophomore, James had 42 receptions for 820 yards and 7 touchdowns. In his junior year, James caught 61 passes for 1,245 yards and 16 touchdowns.
The number one receiver of the 2003 recruiting class according to rivals.com, Andre Caldwell, had 1,100 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior. Caldwell’s 40-yard dash was a 4.43 whereas James claims he can run a 4.6, even though he’s never trained for a 40-yard dash. At the vertical jump, Caldwell’s vertical was 31.9”. James’ has been measured to reach over 40”!
Given the comparison to Caldwell and even getting the attention of then Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, it’s no secret James was coveted as a wide receiver.
But moving away from high school, let’s say James went to Ohio State and played alongside future Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes, who only had 32 receptions for 931 yards and 10 touchdowns his junior year. Given how successful Holmes was at Ohio State, finishing his college career with 2,295 yards and 25 touchdowns, one can only imagine the success James may have accumulated. My guess…James would have finished his college career with close to 2,450 yards and 30 touchdowns if he stayed the same length as Holmes.
Now that we’ve mapped out a mock trajectory of James from high school through college, how does he fair against the Giants triple threat of Cruz, Nicks, and Randle?
In Cruz’ case, the unknown’s were everywhere. Scout.com had him listed as a cornerback, not a wide receiver during recruitment. Cruz didn’t even start a game until his junior year at UMASS. Even though Cruz has broken out to be the talented wide receiver he is, it would have paled in comparison to James’ stock. Cruz did run a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash and had a vertical jump of 41.5” at the 2010 Boston Pro Day, comparing very well to James in this regard. But at 6-foot-8, 250 pounds, Ohio State bred, and having (theoretically) accumulated more experience as a wide receiver than Cruz, the advantage goes to James.
Nicks never lost a game in high school. Already a good start since James lost some. Nicks finished his senior season with 93 receptions for 1,819 yards and 20 touchdowns. At North Carolina, Nicks finished his collegiate career with 2,840 yards and 21 touchdowns, most of which came is junior year where he caught 68 passes for 1,222 yards and 12 touchdowns. Nicks ran a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash and has a vertical jump of 36 inches.
It looks like King James might be dethroned until Nicks unveils his Achilles’ heel: injuries. James’ durability to stay healthy in his NBA career cannot translate to an NFL career given the different nature of both sports. Yet, if James’ durability held up, the advantage would go to him, but given how much of a stretch that is, it’s not fair. Therefore, advantage to Nicks.
Lastly, Randle was the number one wide receiver prospect in 2009. As a junior, Randle had 55 receptions for 1,058 yards and 11 touchdowns. At the end of his career at LSU, he finished with 1,634 yards and 13 touchdowns. Randle ran a 4.55 in the 40-yard dash and had a vertical leap of 31”, making him the slowest receiver with the weakest vertical on the Giants. Therefore, advantage goes to James given his projections.
There is no question James is a colossal athlete and is the greatest basketball player in the world today. But if he had traded his headband for pads, it looks as though he may have contested to be a top receiver with the New York Giants. Many analysts have tackled this debate by putting him at tight end and rightfully so given his height. But by doing so, if he did play, there’s no question he would be the greatest tight end in the game today and would haul in many catches for many touchdowns given his stature.
James fairs well against my Giants, how do you think he fairs against your favorite team’s receivers?