AFC East: LeBron James

DAVIE, Fla. -- There is a growing debate in Miami. The topic: Is South Florida changing from a football town to a basketball town?

The perfect storm is taking place in Miami sports. Both the Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes' college football team cannot get their act together, while the Miami Heat just won an NBA championship. The Heat, led by LeBron James, had Miami abuzz in the spring and summer during their title run. Basketball dominated the airways in South Florida and captured fan interest in a way the Dolphins have not for a while.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross recently touched on the subject.

"The Heat winning, I don’t need to be motivated any more than I am, to be very honest with you," Ross said. "I think it’s great for Miami that the Heat does win. But, at the same time, South Florida is about football and I think fans will feel a lot better when the Dolphins are winning in the Super Bowl."

Is Ross correct? Is Miami still a football town?

The Dolphins have struggled to sell out Sun Life Stadium, while the Heat do not have that problem. At the very least, the Dolphins must step up their game sooner than later.

Brady, Revis, Sanchez make SI money list

June, 16, 2011
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Tom Brady probably doesn't worry about paying the mortgage(s), not when his wife's career earnings reportedly are about to hit $1 billion.

So I doubt Brady is upset about ranking ninth in all sports and third among NFL quarterbacks in Sports Illustrated's annual Fortunate 50 list of the top-earning American athletes. The rankings are based on salaries and estimated endorsement dollars.

Brady came in ninth with New England Patriots paychecks of about $20 million and sponsorships of $10 million. Brady was tied for 28th last year in Sports Illustrated's analysis.

Brady is a spokesman for various products, but he's not a prolific pitchman like Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is. Manning ranked fourth at about $37 million. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan also finished ahead of Brady at $32.7 million.

Tiger Woods was first with about $2.3 million in golf earnings but an estimated $60 million in endorsements. Phil Mickelson was less than seven figures behind Woods at $61.185 million.

Miami Heat forward LeBron James was third at $44.5 million.

Here are the athletes with AFC East ties:
  • 9. Tom Brady, Patriots quarterback: $30 million
  • 14. Darrelle Revis, Jets cornerback: $25.75 million
  • 38. Mark Sanchez, Jets quarterback: $17.75 million

Brady, Tebow on Forbes' influential list

May, 10, 2011
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ESPNBoston.com reporter Mike Reiss passed along an interesting item that underscores Tom Brady's standing in the sports world.

Forbes magazine assembled its top 10 list of the most influential athletes.

Brady ranked second, but first among the traditional big four sports.
  1. Jimmie Johnson, NASCAR driver
  2. Tom Brady, Patriots quarterback
  3. Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR driver
  4. Shaquille O'Neal, Celtics center
  5. Michael Phelps, swimmer
  6. Troy Polamalu, Steelers safety
  7. Peyton Manning, Colts quarterback
  8. Jeff Gordon, NASCAR driver
  9. LeBron James, Heat forward
  10. Tim Tebow, Broncos quarterback

No baseball or hockey players or golfers made the rundown. Tiger Woods, for obvious reasons, dropped off the list. Lance Armstrong also was absent because he retired.

Randy Moss insists he can pull out of rut

April, 3, 2011
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For you AFC East fans who don't mosey over to the NASCAR page on a regular basis, I wanted to draw your attention to a Randy Moss Q&A you might find interesting.

Moss sat down with ESPN The Magazine writer Ryan McGee to discuss Randy Moss Motorsports, which has been about as successful lately as Randy Moss Football.

Randy Moss Motorsports, which runs on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, split with respected driver Mike Skinner in what McGee called "a bit of an ugly divorce" and took away prospect Tayler Malsam's ride in March.

"Like most teams in the series," McGee wrote, "Moss is struggling to rustle up sponsorship and just this week the team shut down one of its two trucks."

Even if you're not into auto racing, the interview shows off a lot of Moss' personality. He's clearly thrilled with being around the track.

At the beginning of the Q&A, he told McGee football talk was verboten, but Moss eventually made a statement about his future on the gridiron.

Moss stated:
"I want to play wherever they want me to play. Like I said, I'm a free agent. I know I'm 34. I know I didn't have a great season last year. But I also know that these still work [holds up his hands], and I know I can still play at a high level. We just need to get this season back on track so I can start working on finding that team that wants Randy Moss on their roster."

That's a subdued declaration compared to the time I spoke to Moss about his role with Randy Moss Motorsports. Our May 2009 interview was for a story that wondered whether LeBron James could be an NFL star if the NBA superstar wanted to switch. Moss offered terrific insight as a prep basketball star who was dabbling in a second sport, albeit auto racing.

During our interview, Moss had this to say:
"I'm the best wide receiver of all-time, hands down. ... I don't really like to judge people or other athletes. I know what I'm able to do on the field, but the things I'm able to do to dictate how a defense plays the game, I don't think there's no other receiver but myself and Jerry Rice to be able to do that."

Moss stalled last year with the New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans. He caught 28 balls for 393 yards and five touchdowns.

Ron Artest wants to play TE for the Jets

December, 31, 2010
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I must apologize to my readers.

Perhaps I imbibed too much eggnog last week and was enraptured by all those Burl Ives tunes, but amid all my Christmas mirth I missed one of the greatest stories of the year.

Artest
Artest
Volatile basketball star Ron Artest announced he wants to play tight end for the New York Jets.

What could go wrong?

Artest was a guest on "Pardon the Interruption" two days before Christmas. He has been making the media rounds for mental health awareness. Insert your own Jets joke here.

Maybe there's room in the organization for someone with scandal experience. Artest, a 6-foot-7 Los Angeles Lakers forward, has been involved in many wacky incidents over the years, most infamously the 2004 brawl with fans in Detroit. Artest is the subject of a Toronto art exhibit that focuses on his history of outlandish behavior.

"PTI" co-host Tony Kornheiser asked how serious Artest is about the NFL.

"It's definitely an ambition," Artest said. "I think you only live once if I'm not mistaken. I wish I lived twice. So any time I have a chance to take advantage ... still being athletic enough, when you think about my dreams as a kid -- boxing, playing football -- you think about certain things. You think 'If I had the opportunity to play, why not take advantage of it? Why let it sit on the table?

"If there's a possibility, and if I do get a chance, you won't see Ron Artest saying 'Nah, I'll pass.' You'll see Ron Artest saying 'I wan to see if I can do it.' "

Artest turned 31 in November and hails from Queens. He's a longtime Jets fan.

"If I did get the opportunity I would not have a preference for a team because I'm not good enough where I can say I want to play for a particular team," Artest said. "But in a perfect world it would be the Jets, tight end for the Jets."

Basketball players sometimes make great tight ends. San Diego Chargers star Antonio Gates played basketball -- and no football -- at Kent State. Tony Gonzalez, a future Hall of Famer with the Atlanta Falcons, played college hoops.

The Jets experimented with Cleveland State power forward J'Nathan Bullock last year, but he couldn't make the team.

Last year, I examined what kind of football player Lebron James would've been had he gone that route. James was an All-Ohio receiver as high school sophomore, and some NFL observers quoted in the story projected him as a star tight end.

Halftime thoughts from Jets at Browns

November, 14, 2010
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CLEVELAND -- A few halftime notes from Cleveland Browns Stadium, where the New York Jets lead 17-13:
  • When it comes to a Cleveland fan's hatred, Braylon Edwards isn't too far behind LeBron James. The crowd has cascaded boos and some unflattering chants upon him. He has two receptions for 27 yards.
  • Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez had a nice first half. He completed nine of 13 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown. He also scored on a 1-yard quarterback draw 23 seconds before halftime.
  • The Jets' vaunted defense hasn't looked too swift. Then again, maybe what the Browns did to the New England Patriots last week wasn't a fluke. The Browns' offensive line has manhandled the Jets. Former Jets coordinator Brian Daboll, now calling plays for the Browns, has done a wonderful job of mixing the run and pass.
  • The Jets weren't able to take advantage of gift-wrapped field position on their first two drives. The Browns made a field goal on their opening drive and then tried an unsuccessful onside kick. Nick Folk eventually kicked a field goal. On the next drive, Peyton Hillis fumbled on the Browns' 31-yard line. After a three-and-out (plus a delay of game), Folk missed a 48-yard attempt.
  • Jets safety Jim Leonhard has had a busy first half with a team-high six tackles and the forced fumble on Hillis.
  • Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson have split the backfield workload. Each has seven carries. Greene leads with 34 yards, while Tomlinson has 28 yards.

Is Bill Parcells already mulling next team?

September, 30, 2010
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Bill Parcells has been a media hermit since he took over the Miami Dolphins in December 2007.

He sat down for an introductory news conference and reluctantly met with reporters at an endorsement obligation for Gatorade. That was all we've heard aside from an extemporaneous comment here or there about his love for horse racing or some historical football perspective.

[+] EnlargeBill Parcells
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesBill Parcells' contract with the Dolphins runs through 2011, but a clause in that contract allows him to leave at any time.
So it was pretty big news that Parcells was on a conference call Thursday with New York Giants reporters to talk about being inducted in their Ring of Honor at the new Meadowlands stadium.

For the first time, reporters had the chance to ask him about his future. The Dolphins announced a few days before their season opener Parcells had stepped down as executive vice president and turned over football operations to general manager Jeff Ireland.

Parcells has stayed on as a consultant. But what's next?

"Well, that is a good question," Parcells replied. "I am not a sit-around-the-fireplace guy. I don't know. I am not certain about it. We will see what happens when the time comes.

"I know I want to do something even if it is not day-to-day or something like that, I know I want to do something. I don't like sitting around. I like to get up and go do something. We will figure it out when the time comes."

Parcells' comments are ominous given his history as a restless football soul and the fact he can walk away from his Dolphins contract with full pay whenever the mood strikes him.

His contract with the Dolphins runs through 2011. When new owner Stephen Ross bought the team from Wayne Huizenga, Parcells negotiated a clause that will allow him to leave at any time, collect every last cent and not be prevented from working for another team.

Under Ross, the Dolphins have turned into a glitzy operation that embraces celebrity and the South Florida lifestyle as much as it does touchdowns. Ross has sold pieces of the team to Fergie, Gloria Estefan, Marc Anthony and Serena and Venus Williams. Jimmy Buffet got involved in a deal with the Dolphins last year that included stadium naming rights.

For Sunday night's home opener, the Dolphins rolled out an orange carpet for a slew of celebrities to walk past the paparazzi: Jennifer Lopez (Anthony's wife), Kim Kardashian, Enrique Iglesias, T-Pain, Anna Kournikova, Tara Reid and Helio Castroneves among them. attendees who avoided the orange carpet included Tiger Woods, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, who, coincidentally, was the subject of a story for which Parcells once actually called me back.

As much as Parcells isn't a fan of the media, I'm sure even he rolled his eyes when he learned the Dolphins converted their press box into a nightclub-style suite.

Parcells is a football man. I'm sure he'd love to work for an organization that makes football the only priority and doesn't still consider Tara Reid a star.

By any standard, Darrelle Revis a rich dude

September, 8, 2010
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How long would it take New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis to earn what you make in a year?

ESPN.com's "Salary Crunch" application has added Revis to its long list of subjects to scrutinize. He joins stars such as LeBron James, Ilya Kovalchuk, Joe Mauer and JaMarcus Russell for a diversion that might ruin your day.

You can plug in your salary (we won't tell anyone) and find out how relatively easy Revis' money is based on his average stat line. I'm not sure if the calculator takes FICA or income generated from stolen office supplies into account.

Using statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, I checked on a few average salaries to give you an idea.

Revis would need to play .06 games to earn as much as the average farmer, who would need to work 296 years to make Revis' average salary.

To make the same as an average casino pit boss, Revis will need to intercept half of a pass.

He will have earned as much as the average funeral director once he has made .28 tackles.

By the time he's done with his first quarter, he will have played long enough to make as much as the average lawyer -- unless that lawyer is Revis' agent.

His first tackle will stack up against the average anesthesiologist's annual pay.

A bartender would need to work 548 years to match Revis' average annual salary.

And compared to a blogger? Well, I couldn't find that on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' website because it's not a real job.

LeBron James and the NFL

July, 7, 2010
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What might have happened had LeBron James chosen football over basketball?

Domination on Friday night doesn't mean much when a colossus is leaping over pimple-faced twerps, but James has proven he can compete against world-class competition. It's not silly to think he could have made it in the NFL, too.

He's a 6-foot-8, 250-pound freak of stature. He would tower above NFL defensive backs and other receivers. Plus, he owns a 44-inch vertical leap, which would rank among the top 10 recorded at the NFL scouting combine.

Editor's note: This story by ESPN.com's Tim Graham was originally posted May, 31, 2009. What NBA team will LeBron James sign with? Watch him announce his decision Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Tannenbaum: Edwards should start versus Fins

October, 7, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss the trade for receiver Braylon Edwards.

Tannenbaum said the organization feels comfortable adding Edwards despite the lingering legal issues that could lead to disciplinary action from the NFL. Tannenbaum also expects Edwards to start Monday night against the Miami Dolphins in Land Shark Stadium.
Catches of the Day
" Walker: Browns had to trade Edwards
" Graham: Jets GM on Edwards deal
" Sando: Expectations for Crabtree
" Fantasy Focus on Edwards, Crabtree deals
" Karabell: Winners in Edwards-Stuckey deal
" NFL Nation: Edwards coverage | Crabtree coverage

Some highlights from the news conference:

Are there concerns over recent allegations Edwards allegedly punched a friend of LeBron James?

"We went through a thorough researching. [Jets vice president of security) Steve Yarnell does a great job, and we are comfortable where we are in adding Braylon to the team.

"We reached out to the League. Steve Yarnell reached out to law enforcement. We are comfortable adding Braylon. We will cooperate with the authorities. We are glad he is here. We did all of our due diligence, and we are comfortable adding him to the team."

Have there been any assurances from the NFL?

"No assurances from the league. All I am saying is that we reached out to the league. We reached out to law enforcement. Steve Yarnell and I did that last night. We feel comfortable adding Braylon where the situation is right now."

Are the Jets are negotiating a new contract for Edwards?

"We acquired Braylon and his contract. We’re going to honor his contract. Right now, our intentions are that he is going to be here with the contract that we acquired in the trade. That is our plans."

How will Edwards impact the offense?

"We think this is going to help both our passing game and our running game, the coverages that we'll see. And I think our running backs will be happy with this trade as well. I think it's going to help balance out our offense. We think he'll be able to help all aspects of the offense."

Can Edwards be the player he was in 2007?

"Braylon is 26 years old. Young players go through ups and downs. We’re excited to have him. We like the environment he is coming into. He has a lot of good teammates that are going to support him to be successful. I think he is going to help us be a winning football team.

"I'm not into numbers of receptions or touchdowns. I'm into winning football. Whatever he can do to help us win. That is blocking in the running game, drawing coverages to his side of the field. That's what we're looking for. There will be a lot of production as well. We’re not going to assess this trade based on 'X' catches or number of touchdowns. It's more about the total package he brings."

Jets finally land their deep threat in Edwards

October, 7, 2009
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The New York Jets finally acquired the big-play receiver they've been trying to locate for months.
Paul Jasienski/Getty Images
The Jets hope Braylon Edwards is able to enhance their vertical passing attack.

In a blockbuster move that further solidifies the Jets as a contender and Mike Tannenbaum as the most daring general manager in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns have unloaded problematic wideout Braylon Edwards for No. 2 Jets receiver Chansi Stuckey, linebacker and special-teamer Jason Trusnik and two undisclosed draft choices.

Mark Sanchez now has the deep threat the Jets had been trying to obtain for him. Jerricho Cotchery will make a fine second option, an upgrade over what Stuckey offered.

The Browns have had enough of Edwards' act. He has been a problem off the field and could be facing league disciplinary action after a recent alleged altercation outside a Cleveland nightclub.

Edwards has been accused of punching an associate of NBA superstar LeBron James, Cleveland's reigning monarch. We've since discovered Edwards had a brewing off-field rivalry with James, and the alleged assault was "this town isn't big enough for the both of us" move.

New York is plenty big enough, especially with Plaxico Burress behind bars.

I'm only half-joking when I wonder out loud if Cleveland mayor Frank G. Jackson or Ohio governor Ted Strickland ordered Browns coach Eric Mangini to get rid of Edwards once and for all.
"I've never crossed paths with Braylon before, but it seems like there is a little jealously going on with Braylon and me and my friends," James told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. "I have no idea why. I've never said anything to Braylon at all. For him to do that I think is very childish. My friend is 130 pounds. Seriously, it is like hitting one of my kids or something like that. It doesn't make sense, but the right people will take care of it."

The Plain Dealer noted the police report listed the man Edwards punched is 5-foot-7 and 135 pounds. Edwards is listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds.
"It is unfortunate that some guys don't understand that," James said. "You are a role model to kids, and you should carry yourself that way on and off the field."

But from a football standpoint, Jets fans should be thrilled.

They didn't give up much with Stuckey, a reliable No. 2 receiver who has 11 receptions for 120 yards and one touchdown through four games.

Edwards hasn't been too involved in the Browns' struggling offense, but his abilities are beyond his number so far: 10 receptions for 139 yards and zero touchdowns. Two years ago, he caught 80 passes for 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns.video

Gates refutes Moss' assertion about LeBron

June, 3, 2009
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Gates
Moss

When San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates was playing basketball at Kent State, a local schoolboy named LeBron James used to drop by to watch.

Gates and James got to know each other back then. Gates switched sports and became an NFL star. James, well, we know what happened with him.

In a recent feature story, I endeavored to answer the fanciful question "What if LeBron James had chosen football over basketball?" James was a two-time all-Ohio receiver.

New England Patriots star Randy Moss was one of the experts I interviewed. Moss contended James would be better than Gates, a five-time Pro Bowler.

Gates responded Tuesday. He was interviewed by host Darren Smith on XX Sports Radio 1090 in San Diego.

While heaping praise on James and not sounding offended by Moss' comparison, Gates suggested football wouldn't be a snap for James.

"The biggest misconception about this NFL thing is that you try and discredit the people who are out here, making plays," Gates said. "It wasn't a cakewalk for me to come out here, turn up and look up and I was playing and making plays. It was the things behind the scenes that people didn't necessarily know about: the work habits, the techniques, the drills and all those things summed up Antonio Gates.

"It wasn't the fact that I just came out. If that's the case, you can go and get the guy who won the 100-yard dash from Jamaica, Usain Bolt, and tell him to come play receiver. It just won't happen.

"You can get a dog to run and jump. You can get a pit bull to come out here and run fast and jump. But being able to put everything together and translate it on the football field, it's different. Being able to make the catches and have the toughness to go across the middle and take the hit and get back up and take another hit. That's what separates us."

For the entire interview, click here. Special thanks to AFC West blogger Bill Williamson and Jimmy Shapiro of SportsRadioInterviews.com for the tip.

Of Moss and men: He ranks himself the greatest

May, 26, 2009
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Randy Moss is not a fan of Mark Murphy's list.

Murphy, an 11-year NFL safety and a member of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, ranked LeBron James fourth among the greatest receivers he has played with, competed against, coached or watched. James Lofton was first, Jerry Rice second, Steve Largent third.


David Drapkin/Getty ImagesRandy Moss said he considers himself the best receiver to ever play the game.
When I shared Murphy's rundown during an interview with Moss on Monday, the New England Patriots receiver wasn't impressed.

Moss' reaction had little to do with James being on the list. It had everything to with Moss not being on top.

"I'm the best wide receiver of all-time, hands down," Moss said in an interview for ESPN.com's package that examined how James would fare in the NFL. "I could really give a damn what [Murphy] says.

"I don't really like to judge people or other athletes. I know what I'm able to do on the field, but the things I'm able to do to dictate how a defense plays the game, I don't think there's no other receiver but myself and Jerry Rice to be able to do that."

In case you haven't seen the stories, Moss contended James would be a star receiver, better than San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates.

Moss, who turned 32 in February, still has a few years left. He ranks 15th in career receptions with 843, ninth in yards with 13,210 and third in receiving touchdowns with 135.

I asked if Moss felt he needed to break some of Rice's career records for the ultimate validation.

"Me, personally? No. But for the football fans and the sport itself? Yes," Moss said. "But records are meant to be broken. I think that I've made a mark for myself and my name to go down as if not the greatest, but one of the greatest players.

"To hell with wide receiver. I think I go down as one of the greatest players to ever play this game."

Then Moss slammed on the brakes and put his career in a different context.

"I don't really know where I rank at, but as long as I get a Super Bowl ring before I leave this game, I think my life and my goal would be complete in the NFL," he said.

Similar to LeBron, Moss was a phenomenal two-sport star in high school. Many believe Moss could have pursued a career in either football or basketball.

I also was intrigued with Moss' role as half-owner for Randy Moss Motorsports and wanted to see if NASCAR was a tempting diversion for him.

His football fans needn't worry about the track luring him away prematurely.

"Football is my love. That's my life," Moss said. "There's a lot of things I haven't done on the football field that I still want to do. I don't know what life after football holds for me. I would love for it to be in NASCAR if that's what it is.

"There's still a lot of football left in my body, and I want to definitely play until the wheels fall off."

Moss says LeBron would be better than Gates

May, 26, 2009
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Randy Moss considers LeBron James a kindred spirit.

They both were schoolboy superstars in football and basketball. Moss, twice named Mr. Basketball in West Virginia, opted for football. James, an all-Ohio wide receiver as a sophomore and a junior, chose basketball.

And the way Moss sees it, either decision would have been correct for them.

"LeBron James is the athlete that comes around every so often," Moss told me by phone Monday. "I would put myself in that category. We're multi-talented, able to go out and play different sports, different positions."

Over the past couple weeks, I interviewed dozens of knowledgeable sources for a feature that examined LeBron James, the football player.
Bob DeMay/Akron Beacon Journal
LeBron James played football for two seasons at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, scoring 27 TDs and attracting the attention of Ohio State and Notre Dame.

I spoke with coaches who witnessed James' domination on Ohio's fertile recruiting grounds. I consulted with college coaches, NFL personnel men and scouts to gauge their opinion of how good James would have been -- or still could be if he attempted to switch sports.

Of all the people I chatted with, Moss was the most authoritative. The six-time Pro Bowler with 135 touchdown receptions knows personally what it takes, and he insisted James has it.

"I think he could make the transition," said Moss, a bit of a crossover success himself as half-owner of Randy Moss Motorsports. "I really do. A lot of people -- and definitely football players -- don't think basketball players can make the transition, but I think he's one of those special players that given the opportunity of getting to a camp and learning can excel at this sport. I do think he could be a star in football."

I asked Moss if it's fair to say that because James is a far superior basketball player than San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates was in college -- Gates didn't play college football -- that James also would be a better NFL player than the five-time Pro Bowler.

"That's a good comparison," Moss said. "I think LeBron could come in and do better than Antonio Gates."

Moss didn't even mention James' 6-foot-8, 250-pound frame, although it certainly wouldn't hurt. Moss explained his assessment was based on the pure physical dominance James demonstrates on a nightly basis.

"I see his power and his explosion," Moss said. "It really translates to the football field. Basketball was my first love. I just chose football because I was able to excel at that a little bit quicker than basketball.

"But looking at him and evaluating his skills and things like that, I don't think it'd be a problem for him to make the transition from basketball to football.

"I believe that he could be a star in this game."

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