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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Holt: Lebron would be ‘tight’ addition to needy Browns squad

There are two running punchlines in the NFL right now. One involves Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders. The other is any kind of reference to the Cleveland Browns.

Since becoming a franchise again in 1999, the Browns are 55-114. They’ve made the playoffs once in that span, losing a wild card game in 2002. In their best season, the 2007 campaign, they didn’t even make the postseason despite finishing 10-6.

It’s not just the Browns that have Cleveland struggling either. The Indians got to watch their former Cy Young winners CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee face off in the World Series this year — for teams not based out of Cleveland. Even the city itself is pretty demoralizing; I mean, you can buy a house for the price of a VCR (Hastily made Cleveland tourism video anyone?). And I’ve been to Cleveland once, so I can make this kind of sweeping, generalized statement.


However, there is one shining star for every sports fan in Cleveland. Obviously I’m talking about LeBron James; even people who don’t know a free throw from a touchdown know James is pretty much the best player in the NBA right now. James is the reason citizens of Cleveland will reply “Who?” to any conversation about the Browns.

So prior to the Cavaliers’ game Tuesday, James told reporters that “if I dedicated myself to the game of football, I could be really good, no matter what team I was on.” This was in response to ESPN’s Monday Night Football crew waxing poetic about the NBA star’s NFL potential. All them smart guys at ESPN have been parading the possibility of James becoming a tight end for over a year now. It got brought back up again Monday because it’s a great idea, and, well, you have to have something to talk about during a Browns game.

Even Browns head coach Eric Mangini wants James to make the crossover. Reporters asked the coach and players what they thought about the idea and Cleveland quarterback Brady Quinn was also on board, saying, “Tell him to suit up and let us know. We’ll get him working. Obviously he’s an incredibly talented athlete. If he wants to try to play a little bit now, we’d be more than willing to pick him up.”

Of course you’d be willing to pick him up. The Browns would pick up 57-year-old Lynn Swann if he came out of retirement, that’s how pathetic their offense is. Cleveland could start Johnny Unitas at quarterback and improve its production at the position.

But all joking aside, let’s consider this for a minute. James is a freak of nature athletically. He’s marketable. He’s given the idea thought. James shouldn’t be considering a move to the New York Knicks next year, he should be thinking of trading the hardwood for the gridiron.

LeBron James needs to play football. And yes, I am dead serious.

You might be saying, “Adam, you’re an idiot! That has to be the worst idea I’ve ever heard. Why would he ditch his all-everything NBA career?” Well you know what, maybe it is the worst idea I’ve ever heard too. But it just might be bad enough to work.

See, James has a history of football. He was all-state in high school as a wide receiver, but quit football to focus on basketball. In those two first-team All-Ohio seasons, he had over 1,800 yards and 27 touchdowns.

He’s also got the body for it. James is 6 feet 8 inches and anywhere between 250 and 275 pounds, depending on who you listen to. He’s got the height, he’s got the athleticism (for reference, see any time he’s ever dunked) and he’s got the stature. And No. 23 also has a 7-foot wingspan and 44-inch vertical, meaning Quinn can just lob balls up in the air without looking (as he tends to do) and reasonably expect James to come down with them.

And forget the fact that he hasn’t played football since high school. The San Diego Chargers’ Antonio Gates is one of the best tight ends in the NFL right now and Gates played basketball in college. After NBA scouts told Gates he was too small for the league, he decided he’d just forget basketball and become an All-Pro tight end — no big deal, right?

Tony Gonzalez, the NFL’s other premier tight end has a basketball history as well. Gonzalez, arguably the best tight end ever, played on both the football and basketball teams while at Cal. Seventy-eight pro touchdowns later and Gonzalez is a lock for the Hall of Fame. Apparently basketball is a precursor to success as an NFL tight end.

At this point, you might be thinking of another No. 23 who decided to take a break from basketball to play another sport. But let’s think less “Michael Jordan” and more “Bo Jackson.” Catching footballs for the Browns is a little easier than toiling in the White Sox’s minor league system. And while neither is an enviable undertaking, the idea of watching James leap over linebackers and toss defensive backs like small children is infinitely more entertaining.

There is the issue of job security — James is a bona fide NBA superstar and there’s no guarantee he would succeed in the NFL. But it’s a chance he should take, especially right now. James’ contract with the Cavaliers is up after this season and New York would love to bring King James to Madison Square Garden in 2010.

But the Knicks — to put it nicely — suck, and they suck so bad that not even James could save them. He got to see that firsthand earlier this month, when he dropped 19 points on them — just in the first quarter — en route to a 100-91 win that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.

And if Cleveland can storm its way to an NBA title this year on James’ and Shaquille O’Neal’s broad, broad shoulders, that would leave James with almost literally nothing left to accomplish in the NBA. He owns a league MVP, All-Star MVP honors and a scoring title. He’s been named to the All-NBA first team and also was a first-team all-defensive selection. If he gets his hands on the Larry O’Brien trophy, he’s just about got a career clean sweep of meaningful awards. Why not take a little break from the NBA to see what could be on the gridiron?

There’s really no reason for anybody to object to the move. The Browns, as much as they need wins, need reasons for people to watch their games. The NFL would dump its trunks at the idea of marketing a crossover star like James. TV viewership for Browns games would skyrocket at least into the dozens. The Cavaliers might object, but hey, it’s Cleveland; the city is used to disappointment.

James should leave the Cavs after the season — but just down the street to Cleveland Browns Stadium. The LeBron-Kobe Bryant matchup is always intriguing, but I’d rather pay to see the LeBron-Troy Polamalu bill. Worst case scenario, he sucks and goes back to the NBA to win more titles or MVPs or Nike contracts. It would take some time and dedication, but with “legendary” status pretty much locked up in one sport, he’d be stupid not to try for two.

Adam is a junior majoring in journalism. So is LeBron playing football the best “worst” idea ever or what? E-mail him at [email protected].

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