By now, everyone has seen impressive footage of a baby-faced LeBron James playing football, but now there’s more meaning behind the highlight reel.
As a sophomore in high school at St. Vincent-St. Mary in Ohio, James was one of the most famous basketball players as people were excited about his potential as his knowledge grew, but that didn’t deter him from his love of football.
Basketball purists were hoping he’d step off the field to prevent future injuries, and he almost succumbed to it after his sophomore year under his mother’s guidance.
He missed the first game of his junior year but was back on the roster as a wide receiver the second week and played the rest of the season. And now, thanks to the clip going viral on social media again, the topic was discussed on Wednesday’s episode of NBA Today.
NBA Insider and LeBron whisperer Brian Windhorst explained why King James decided to throw caution to the wind and put his pads back on.
“You know why he played football? Because of Aaliyah. He was gonna stop playing after his sophomore year, and then Aaliyah, one of his favorite singers, died in that plane crash, and he decided that he was not gonna live his life being afraid,” Windhorst explained. “So, Aaliyah’s passing got him to come off the sidelines — he had skipped the start of his junior year, he missed the first game of the year. He joined the second game with no practice, no training camp, he played 12 games, had 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns, and was one of the great receivers in the history of the school.”
For further proof, evidence of Aaliyah’s impact on James’ high school football career dates back as far as 2002 when he told Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl of his decision.
“You’re not promised tomorrow,” James told Wahl more than two decades ago. “I had to be out on the field with my team.”
James did end up breaking his left index finger while helping lead the Irish to the state semifinals, but thankfully he’s a righty on the court.
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