Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James is one of the most athletic basketball players of all time. His rare combination of size and speed made him one of the greatest players in NBA history, but it also could have translated to the gridiron. James was an impressive and imposing tight end in high school, but he gave it up after his junior year to give more focus to his true calling on the hardwood. When the NBA lockout happened in 2011, it is a well-known story that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones offered James a spot on America’s Team. What James hasn’t revealed unit now is that he had a second NFL offer that year as well.
Jerry Jones offered LeBron James a contract, and the basketball star started working out for football
When players didn’t know how long the 2011 NBA lockout would last, some players started making other plans if the season (or the league) didn’t come back.
One of those players was LeBron James. The former prep tight end has told the story occasionally about Jerry Jones offering him a contract to play for the Cowboys if the NBA season didn’t return.
James even went so far as to talk about how he started training for the contact sport. He and his training team apparently started timing his 40-yard-dash, bench-pressing more, and even hit the tackling sled.
The 2011 Cowboys finished the season 8-8 with quarterback Tony Romo and coach Jason Garrett. They also had Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett at the tight end position.
The ‘Boys only finished a game behind the NFC East-winning New York Giants that season, though. Maybe having James as a red-zone target would have won them one more game and got them into the playoffs, at least.
James told Eli and Peyton Manning that Pete Carroll offered him a contract too
During the Monday Night Football “ManningCast” of the Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles game, the Laker joined former QBs Eli and Peyton Manning to watch the game in the second quarter.
Eli brought up the well-known story about Jerry Jones offering James a contract in 2011. He asked James if he “had any temptations” during that period to “put the uniform on?” James said he did. Then, he dropped the nugget that the Cowboys offer wasn’t the only one he had a decade ago:
That’s true. Jerry Jones offered me a contract. Also, Pete Carroll did as well in Seattle during our lockout time, and it definitely got my blood flowing again, got my mind racing again, thinking about the game of football, being out there on Sundays. But we were able to get a deal done in the NBA, and I was back on the court in no time, but I definitely thought about it. I still got the jersey too that Jerry and Pete Carroll sent me too in 2011.LeBron James on his NFL offers
That season, Tavaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst combined to lead Carroll’s Seahawks to a 7-9 record, so even tight end LeBron James might not have helped.
However, it is fun to think about the possibilities of James making the transition to the NFL and sticking with it. The following season he would have teamed up with Russell Wilson, and that is something that could have been interesting.
The NBA star would not have been the tallest player in NFL history
The Lakers website lists LeBron James at 6-foot-9. While this would make him among the handful of tallest players in NFL history — had he accepted Jerry Jones or Pete Carroll’s offer — he is three inches shorter than the tallest player ever to play pro football.
The distinction of tallest player to play the game at the highest level is defensive tackle Richard Sligh.
Sligh grew up in Newberry County, South Carolina, and attended North Carolina Central University from 1962-64, per NCCUEaglesPride.com. At 7-feet, 300-pounds, the Oakland Raiders selected the big man in the 10th round of the 1967 NFL Draft.
The defensive lineman only played one season in the NFL, but it was a good one from a team standpoint. The Raiders, led by QB Daryle Lamonica, WR Fred Biletnikoff, and CB Willie Brown, made it all the way to Super Bowl 2. Unfortunately for Sligh and his teammates, the Silver and Black lost to the Green Bay Packers 33-14 in the final game.
Sligh died in 2008 at the age of 64 but is still the tallest-ever NFL player to this day. And he still would be, even if LeBron James decided to play in 2011.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference