The Football History of LeBron James

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  • By Ralph Warner
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On Sunday night, LeBron James sent shock waves through the sports world by signing a four-year, $154 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. The four-time NBA MVP ended several months of speculation regarding where he would take his talents next. Time will tell how he'll be able to make his mark on the storied Lakers franchise, but fans in La La Land are already salivating at the possibilities. Regardless of what the future holds, King James is unquestionably one of the greatest NBA players of all time and some have already anointed him as the unrivaled G.O.A.T.

However, what if James had chosen the gridiron instead of the hardwood? Would he still be one of the greatest athletes of all time?

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Some who saw the first-team all-state wide receiver in his St. Vincent-St. Mary days think so.

Former Packers safety Mark Murphy, who was a defensive coordinator at St. Vincent-St. Mary while James was playing at the high school, has high praise for the King's football skills.

"I've been around a lot of great receivers," Murphy told ESPN in 2009. "I tell people that I rate my top receivers -- coaching, playing, or watching -- as James Lofton, Jerry Rice, Steve Largent, and LeBron James."

In the summer following his junior year, James made the decision to stop playing football after breaking his wrist in an AAU basketball game. However, James' love of the pigskin didn't stop when he chose basketball over football. From being recruited by Urban Meyer to his flag football showdown with Kevin Durant, check out LeBron James' Football History.

Childhood Connection to Joe Thomas

Year: Circa 1997

The two biggest Cleveland athletes of this generation were linked way back in a '90s AAU tournament. In the clip below, Thomas breaks down what it was like seeing a young LeBron in action.

In March, King James and No. 73 reunited at a Bucks-Cavs game.

Legends of The Land... Joe Thomas x @kingjames

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High School Football Career and Being Recruited by Urban Meyer

Year: 2001

At his size, and with his wide range of athleticism, James would likely be able to play a few different sports professionally. At St. Vincent-St. Mary, James played wide receiver and made first team all-state as a sophomore. As a junior, Bron racked up 57 receptions for 1,160 yards and 16 touchdowns. That season, James and his teammates went 10-4 making it the state semifinal. Bleacher Report detailed Urban Meyer's recruitment of James during high school.

Following his junior year, a wrist injury suffered during an AAU basketball game caused James to solely focus on his basketball future.

Dallas Cowboy Fandom

Year: 2008 (Cowboys-Browns game in Cleveland)

Cleveland sports fans are arguably the most loyal regional fans you'll find. Prior to Bron bringing a championship to the 'Land in 2016, Cleveland fans endured 52 years without a major sports championship. Before the 2016 NBA Finals, the last time Cleveland won a title was back when Hall of Fame RB Jim Brown led the Browns to the NFL championship in 1964.

Though LeBron will go down as the most prominent figure in Cleveland sports history, the 33-year-old didn't grow up as a fan of the local pro teams. His support of teams outside of Ohio has caused some ire among Clevelanders. There was the mini controversy when he was seen wearing a Yankees cap to a Yankees-Indians playoff game in 2007. The following year, King James showed up to support his Dallas Cowboys when they came to Cleveland for the Browns' 2008 season opener.

Although he's a fan of America's Team, it was interesting to hear King James say Carson Wentz was his favorite player last season. *insert lazy joke about James going from frontrunner to frontrunner in the NBA and NFL here*

LeBron vs. KD Flag Football Classic

Year: 2011

Last month, LeBron James and Kevin Durant met in the Finals for a third time. However, before they ever battled for the Larry O'Brien trophy, the two hoop stars competed on the gridiron. In November 2011, Bron and KD played in LeBron's Flag Football Classic at the University of Akron. Each baller got a squad of friends from their respective hometowns and duked it out in between the lines.

James' team defeated Durant's 73-63 -- yes, they were playing flag football, not basketball. Seven months later, King James won his first NBA championship when the Heat defeated Durant's Thunder in the NBA Finals.

Football-esque NBA Highlights

Year: 2010-present

When LeBron took his talents to South Beach, he teamed up with two perennial All-Stars in Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. During his first stint in Cleveland, James was not surrounded by anything close to the level of talent he was flanked by in Miami. So, once the Big Three started to sync, they naturally decided to stunt a bit. One of the team's trademark electrifying plays was the fullcourt football pass that led to a jaw-dropping dunk.

Let's break this down: The clip above was a 90-foot alley-oop -- the ball never touched the floor. It's something straight out of an early 2000s AND1 Mixtape. However, this was against immensely talented NBA players who dedicate their whole life to basketball. It's lowkey disrespectful, but beautiful at the same time.

Several years later, James has continued this tradition of full-court passes. Most recently, Kevin Love was usually his QB -- maybe Lonzo Ball will take his place.

NFL Players' use of the LeBron "Stomping" Celebration

Year: 2013-present

LeBron James is an icon. Kids aren't the only ones who imitate him, fellow sports stars pay homage to King James, too.

LeBron is tied to the "stomping" celebration T.Y. Hilton is doing in the clip above, but what's the origin of the move?

During his stint with the Heat, LeBron began doing this trademark celebration in response to his critics. The one Achilles' heel of James' game back then was his inconsistent jumper. Like any other shortcoming, LeBron worked on it relentlessly, and when they began to fall consistently, he did a "reverse raise the roof" move that another baller was known for.

"Yeah, I'm on my Nick Van Exel thing right now, anybody who knows the history of the game," said James. "The fans are always on me on the road, they stay on me, they continue to say I can't shoot the ball, I can't shoot."

With all due respect to Nick the Quick, that move belongs to Bron now.

Custom Madden Player

Year: 2016

The desire for LeBron James the NFL player is so real that one fan created a custom Madden 17 player dedicated to the 14-time NBA All-Star. In the game, James' custom player dominated the virtual gridiron in the same way he dominates the hardwood in real life. Think Michael Vick in Madden 2004, but add about 8 inches to his height and 50 pounds to his frame.

Docu-series based on a Miami Youth Football Program

Year: 2018

LeBron is much more than an otherworldly basketball player, he's a mogul. From a national pizza chain to an English soccer team, Bron has a slew of companies under his investment umbrella. One field that LeBron has had a big impact on is media. His production company, SpringHill Ent., put out The Warriors of Liberty City -- a docu-series that premiered on Starz in March.

The series follows Luther "Uncle Luke" Campbell's youth football team in Miami and was executive produced by James and his business partner Maverick Carter.

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