Dallas Cowboys Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones has always looked to do the unconventional thing during his time with the Dallas Cowboys. Even when he was in the oil industry, he went against the grain to make his fortune, which allowed him to purchase the Cowboys back in the 80s.
In the early 2000s, Jones brought in two quarterbacks that were failing as baseball players, Chad Hutchinson and Drew Henson. In 2011, Jerry Jones tried to take advantage of another opportunity to recruit a player from outside the NFL, this time NBA superstar, LeBron James.
LeBron James on @uninterrupted said he started training for football during the 2011 NBA lockout. His trainer kept telling him how great it would be for him to play for the Cowboys. “The thoughts came into my mind.” Jerry Jones sent him a contract.
Back in 2018, LeBron James’ agent Maverick Carter mentioned that the basketball star considered joining the Cowboys during the 2011 lockout.
James speaking to this yesterday, makes it all the more intriguing. What kind of NFL player could LeBron James have been?
The obvious position would have been for James to play tight end. The NFL has already fielded several former basketball players who also happened to play football. Their size and athleticism made them naturals for the position.
He’d have a learning curve having not played football, but because of his size and athleticism, LeBron James would have been a weapon in every area of the field. His speed would have allowed him to be deadly down the middle of the field, and his jumping ability would have been an excellent tool to have available to them in the red zone.
While it wouldn’t take advantage of his jumping ability, LeBron James could have been a pretty good edge rusher as well.
What makes LeBron James so unique, in addition to his athleticism, is the strength in which he plays the game. His combination of power, speed, agility, and athleticism would have made him a terror for offensive tackles.
Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. James could have been a weapon during that 2011 season, albeit limited to red zone opportunities. Mostly, however, it would have been fun to see LeBron James attempt to make the transition.
One difficulty he might have had was just getting playing time.
2011 was Jason Garrett’s first season as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys after serving the second half of 2010 as the interim head coach.
Garrett has been infamous for not giving young or inexperienced players opportunities, especially at the tight end position where Jason Witten had a stranglehold on the snap count. Martellus Bennett, Gavin Escobar, Anthony Fasano, and more recently, Blake Jarwin in 2019 struggled to get snaps with Iron Man Witten on the field. To be fair, Witten was still one of the elite tight ends in the NFL in 2011, so James wouldn’t have been taking his snaps. However, it’s unlikely that James would have seen much playing time given his lack of familiarity with the tight end position and the NFL.
It’s fun to think about what professional athletes could have done in sports other than the one that made them famous. As a kid growing up, I loved to watch Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson do the two-sport thing. It was fun to see Arizona Cardinals Quarterback Kyler Murray get drafted in the first round of both the NFL and MLB drafts.
The art of the multi-sport star is fading in youth, high school, and collegiate athletics as coaches get nervous when their star players go to play another sport.
With some training, LeBron James could have likely been a very good NFL player, and had he signed with the Dallas Cowboys back in 2011; it would have been a media frenzy and financial boon for the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones.
Maybe one day, we’ll get to see an NBA superstar make the transition to the NFL because it would be fun. However, with max contracts going to second and third-tier players regularly in the NBA, I seriously doubt there will be many players looking to make that headfirst dive into the NFL on a rookie minimum contract.
LeBron James will likely never play in the NFL. However, it’s still fun to think about what kind of player he could have been.