He’s 6 foot 8, 250 pounds and, at one point at least, had a 40-inch vertical. He might have the best hand-eye coordination of anyone in his sport and, in his prime, would whiz past opponents 60 pounds lighter than him. 

We all know what LeBron James can do on the basketball court, but given his unique athleticism, many have wondered what kind of dent he would have made in the NFL had he chosen the football route. Turns out Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was among them. 

Earlier in the week, James joined Peyton and Eli Manning during their “Monday Night Football” broadcast and talked about the other sport he dominated while in high school. At one point, Eli asked if the rumors were true that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones once offered him a contract. LeBron confirmed that they were, then added that Carroll, too, offered him a deal during the NBA lockout in 2011.

Could you imagine? 

Pete, it seems, has done quite a bit of imagining. When I asked him for the story behind the LeBron offer Wednesday, you could see the “what if” cogs turning in his brain. 

“I can’t remember the specifics of that, but you can see why I would, there’s been plenty of evidence,” Carroll said. “I think we were having fun with it at the time, but I’m sure there were some serious thoughts in my head that it could be a good idea.” 

What do you think he could do on the field? 


“I don’t know what he couldn’t do,” the coach continued. “He’s an all-time athlete and competitor. It’s not the same game, it doesn’t mean it necessarily carries over, of course, but it would have been fun to try to find out, I know that.” 

James played receiver while at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. He said he might have kept playing longer if he had a better quarterback and didn’t take so many hits. In the NFL, he thinks he would have shined as a tight end/red-zone specialist, where he would soar above smaller defensive backs on fade routes and reel in jump balls in the end zone. 

Would this be the case, though? Seems more than possible. 

Think of eight-time Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates, who didn’t play college football but excelled on the basketball court for Eastern Michigan. Gates is one of the best route runners to ever play the game, but falls short of James’ size and explosiveness. Or former Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, who didn’t play college football till his senior year at Portland State, but went on to make two Pro Bowls. He’s three inches shorter than James and had a vertical leap five inches shy of LeBron’s. 

As Carroll said — the game doesn’t necessarily translate. It’s more than mere combine numbers. World-class sprinters can blow by any running back or wide receiver in the league, but they can’t just throw on a helmet and make it as a football player. 

Still, when you look at a Gates or a Thomas — or former Seahawks offensive tackle George Fant, who played basketball but not football at Western Kentucky — you start to wonder why more hoopers don’t find their way into the NFL. 


“We are always watching,” said Carroll when asked about scouting basketball players. “There are guys that have that chance to be physically within the profile. That’s part of it. It’s just competing; you are just looking for it and seeing where it does fit together, but it is rarer. It’s a big transition to make.” 

Obviously, LeBron made the right choice focusing on basketball. MJ fans may wince at this notion, but he has a chance to go down as the best to ever play the game. It’s fun to wonder what might have been, though, no? 

Wednesday, Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner fielded a question about how James would have fared in the NFL. 

“He would’ve been a big target. If I got in the red zone, I would have just thrown it up and let him use that 40-something-inch vertical to go catch the ball,” Wagner said. 

But then came a caveat. 

“I watched that interview. One of the reasons he stopped playing football is because he kept getting hit,” Wagner said. “Basketball — you don’t get hit in basketball. That’s a nice life over there.”