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Saints TE can tell LeBron a thing or two about the crossover

  • By Jeff Darlington NFL.com
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As the NBA's long and reportedly fruitless mediation process enters another day of meetings Wednesday without much optimism, it might soon be time for LeBron James to turn last week's playful football chatter into a reality.

I found one player -- a budding NFL star who seamlessly made the sport-to-sport transition three years ago -- who agrees.

"Listen, if that guy was on the New Orleans Saints, he would break records," said Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who spent his four undergraduate years as a scholarship basketball player at the University of Miami.

If anyone would know, it might be Graham. He just tied an NFL record of his own Sunday for most consecutive games (four) with 100 or more yards by a tight end. Tony Gonzalez, a future Hall of Famer, is the only other guy to have matched him.

But Graham isn't just an expert on making a successful jump from basketball to football. He's also an expert on all things LeBron.

Just how big of a fan is the second-year NFL pro? Get this: He watches James' high school highlights on his iPad for inspiration before Saints games. When James held "The Decision," Graham hosted a small party and "went crazy" when he announced he was headed to South Beach.

Graham then immediately bought Heat season tickets despite the fact that he spends the football season in New Orleans.

"During the (NFL) preseason last year, I actually flew back on my days off to go to the Heat games," said Graham, who became a Cavaliers fan because of James and transferred his loyalty to the Heat right along with him. "I also go to every game when it's my offseason."

With the NBA's situation only growing more depressing on Tuesday, Graham and I managed to collaborate over the phone on some advice for James.

So, LeBron, listen up: This whole NBA lockout is getting lame. If NBA commissioner David Stern decides to cancel games through Christmas, it's time for you to make the jump. And here, according to Graham, are five tips toward accomplishing this goal:

No. 1: Forget tight end and play receiver

"No matter what anybody says, I would tell him to play wide receiver and not tight end. He would be a dominant wide receiver. Because he's so athletic at his weight, I wouldn't want him to gain weight to have to play tight end. Plus, you'd have to learn to block, and it would slow down the process. So if he was just doing it for this one season, I would tell him to be a wide receiver. Also, I would love for him to be a wide receiver because if he plays tight end, I'm going to be on the bench, and that's going to be frustrating."

No. 2: Take your talents to the Big Easy

"Don't go to any team but the New Orleans Saints because Sean Payton is a genius and will figure out a way to get him the ball in all kinds of situations -- and Drew Brees will throw him the ball in all kinds of situations. I know on this team, with Sean Payton and Drew Brees, he would definitely be utilized immediately."

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No. 3: Get into the playbook

"Definitely got to get in the weight room. Actually, no, because he's already stupid strong. He's such a beast. For him, it would be all about play calling. That's simply what it would come down to. Where to go. When to go there. Just the intricacies of the offensive playbook. You're already athletic enough. I know you can catch. You're going to run by everybody or jump over everybody. The biggest thing would be to get into the playbook. That is a process for anyone because it's so detailed. I wish I could invite him to a practice just to see how crazy it is. Sean will put the headset on him just to listen to the play calls."

No. 4: Do it for the love of the game

"A lot of basketball players have reached out to me and asked what I've thought about it. They're thinking about trying to play football again or trying for the first time. I just tell them if you don't honestly love football -- absolutely love it -- then don't do it. It's not worth it. Everyone sees Sunday. Everyone sees the craziness in the Superdome. But there's also Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Every week is the same. There are no breaks but the bye week. You're going to be in there every day. I tell a lot of those guys if it's about money -- if it's about anything but the love for the game -- don't do it. But LeBron doesn't need the money. It'd be about the passion."

No. 5: Don't overthink it

"Trust his natural abilities. That's going to be important. He's a phenomenal athlete. And he's very, very smart. I've watched almost every game that he's played. I know his court vision -- how he not only looks to get himself open but everyone else open. He's not a selfish player. I honestly think that transition for him wouldn't be that hard. He's one of the best athletes in the world."

So there you have it, LeBron. Follow those five easy steps, and you'll be starring right alongside another player who already proved it's possible to seamlessly jump from hoops to the NFL.

See you on Sunday.

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @jeffdarlington

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