Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Take 2: LeBron's Pac-12 destination?
By Ted Miller
It was reported this week that LeBron James will exercise his early termination option with the Miami Heat and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
So what does this minor sports factoid have to do with the Pac-12? Everything, of course, as the world is best seen through a Pac-12 prism.
While most reporters are focused on James' potential homecoming to Cleveland or forming a new superstar triumvirate in a major media market, your Pac-12 blog attached itself to a perfectly implausible notion: Which Pac-12 football team would be the best fit for James to take his talents?
You know you were thinking the same thing. Oh, yes you were.
Kevin Gemmell: When Ted first pitched me this idea for a Take 2, my initial thought was, what team couldn’t use a 6-foot-8, 250-pound athlete who is loyal and clutch in the fourth quarter. Then I remembered he was talking about LeBron James.
I kid, your Grace.
So this is obviously for kicks. The man who launched a thousand recruits saying they’re going to “take their talents” on national signing day could be on the move again.
So which Pac-12 school would be the best fit for his highness? Well, let’s look at this strictly from a football perspective. Arizona and ASU are already silly with wide receivers. I don’t think he has the right makeup to be a fullback in the Stanford offense. Oregon’s Nike ties create an interesting incentive. The glamour of Los Angeles is also an interesting draw for either USC or UCLA.
But I’m going to go off the beaten path and say when you have a 6-8 tight end/receiver (I’m just assuming this will be much like his basketball career and he’ll strictly play offense), you pair him with a 6-7 quarterback. And with the news that Utah’s Travis Wilson has been medically cleared to play in 2014, this feels like a no-brainer.
For starters, the Utes are spreading things out even more under new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen. When things spread out, in theory, that creates single coverage. And while I like the safeties in this conference, I know they’d be hard-pressed to cover someone of James’ stature.
Next, the Utes have a pretty good-looking trio of running backs who are all going to get some work. That means grinding out some yards (yes, LeBron, you might have to block a little) and that means some good red-zone opportunities. That’s really where the King could make the greatest difference. Stick him in the corner of the end zone and let Wilson chuck fades and jump balls all day long.
And after a well-played game at Rice-Eccles, he can kick back and watch the Jazz.
This seems like a no-brainer. I feel like LeBron-to-Utah analysis would have dominated the sports world yesterday and today if only Luis Suarez hadn’t stolen the news cycle.
Ted Miller: Like most of you, my first thought was Washington State. LeBron James plus Mike Leach would equal endless awesome. They'd bond over their mutual hero, Geronimo. But having hung with James' posse countless times in South Beach, I can tell you that he's developed an affection for warm weather.
So the answer is obvious: UCLA.
For one, the ensuing celebratory musical theater after the announcement performed by coach Jim Mora and offense coordinator Noel Mazzone would be priceless. Imagine combining Monty Python, "Gladiator" and the "Britney/Brittany" episode from "Glee" into a two-man arrhythmic song-and-dance routine. Yes, it would be that good.
Without a doubt, James would play both ways. He'd become an A-list target for QB Brett Hundley, particularly in the red zone, and he could double as a spot pass rusher, replacing the perimeter athleticism of Anthony Barr. A spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff would be a certainty.
Further, James would offer a big boost for Hundley's Heisman Trophy candidacy, both in terms of on-field numbers and off-field soundbites. Here's a guess that James would appreciate being the No. 2 star on his team for once, too.
Let's not forget the What's-In-It-For-Me angle. There are plenty of reasons for LeBron to relocate to Westwood.
For one, after the inevitable easing of certain NCAA rules, he could moonlight with a team some call "The Los Angeles Lakers." While football would be the priority, he could take some heat off Kobe and Company in their battle with that that other LA hoops squad that has ownership issues.
Finally, picking UCLA goes against the grain. Many hearing that James was headed to LA seeking more coverage from the Pac-12 blog would immediately assume he would join USC, the Pac-12's longtime preeminent power. But opting to become a Bruin, thereby shifting the balance of power in LA, would mean he could establish his own preeminence.
You know, after Hundley.