COLUMBUS, Ohio -- As LeBron James and the defending NBA champion Miami Heat continue their run in the playoffs, the reigning league MVP has at least one fan in his home state who isn't surprised by the success that the Akron, Ohio native has found. He just wishes that it would've came in a different sport.
It was 13 years ago that Urban Meyer was the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame, trying to recruit an All-Ohio wideout who had just caught 42 passes for 820 yards and seven touchdowns in his sophomore season. At the Big Ten's media day in Chicago last July, the now Ohio State head coach recalled the time that he sat in an office at St. Vincent-St. Mary high school and offered James a scholarship to play for the fighting Irish.
"Thank you very much, I'll consider it," James said, according to Meyer.
His coach started laughing.
"Do you know who that is?" James' coach asked Meyer.
"No," Meyer replied.
"LeBron James," the coach responded.
"Who's LeBron James?" Meyer asked.
"He'll be the next Michael Jordan," the coach answered.
"Come on," Meyer said in disbelief.
It's too early to determine whether or not James' coach was prophesying or speaking in hyperbole, but with the pace that the All-Star forward is playing at, his proclamation certainly seems less baffling now than it did to Meyer at the time.
James entered the NBA Draft directly out of high school, where he was chosen first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. In 10 NBA seasons (seven with Cleveland, three with Miami), James has made nine All-Star games, won four MVP awards, and was named the most valuable player of the 2012 NBA Finals. With the Heat currently tied at 1-1 with the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals, Miami appears poised to win its second consecutive NBA championship, which would only further the discussion of where James ranks amongst basketball's all-time greats.
As for Meyer, despite his unsuccessful recruitment of James, he's still managed to put together a more-than-memorable coaching career. Having spent a combined 11 years as a head coach at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, and Ohio State, the Ashtabula, Ohio native has won two national championships (Florida, 2006, 2008) and led two other teams (Utah 2004, Ohio State 2012) to undefeated seasons.
Still, that hasn't stopped him from fantasizing about what kind of football player the world's best basketball player -- and his former target -- could have been.
"A first-round draft pick, a Hall of Famer," Meyer said when asked what James would have amounted to had he chosen to continue his football career. "Obviously he's a winner."