DAVIE, Fla. — Mike Wallace’s favorite basketball player is LeBron James. When he was in high school and James was entering in the NBA in 2003, Wallace immediately adopted him.
“I saw this guy coming out of high school just dunking like crazy and coming into the league, and he’s been my favorite ever since,” said Wallace, who grew up in New Orleans.
Now, the Miami Dolphins wide receiver would love it if his basketball hero one day would join him in the NFL. Wallace believes the Miami Heat star not only could play pro football, but would excel.
While Joe Theismann had told FOX Sports Florida last May that James could play quarterback in the NFL, Wallace won’t go that far. He said the best position for James, who was a star wide receiver in high school, would be tight end.
“Look at him, he’s the greatest athlete on the planet,” Wallace said in an interview Monday at training camp with FOX Sports Florida. “I feel there’s no greater talent than LeBron. You throw him a couple of passes and get him a couple of routes, and he’ll be all right. I think you line him up at tight end. I don’t know about the blocking aspect, but you can teach him. You show him a couple of things and the sky is the limit.”
Wallace sure thinks it would be. He talked as if Randy Moss’ 2007 NFL record of 23 touchdown receptions in a season could be in jeopardy.
“He passes the physical test for sure,” Wallace said of the 6-foot-8, 250-pound James. “He’s fast. He’s tall. He can jump out of the gym. Just throw it to the goalpost every time in the red zone. He’ll score 30 touchdowns in the red zone. How can you stop him? What are you going to do? Are you going to jam him? I think he’s too big. As long as he learns how to use his hands in the football aspect, I think he’ll be unstoppable, especially in the red zone.
“He’s a mismatch. If you send him down the seam, it’s crazy all day. There’s nothing you can do. He’s too fast for a linebacker. He’s way too big for a safety. There’s no stopping him.”
James played quarterback on the freshman team at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio, in 1999. He shifted to wide receiver on the varsity in 2000 and 2001 and starred before not playing as a senior in order to focus on basketball.
Since entering the NBA, James has toyed with the idea of returning to football. There was a 2009 State Farm commercial in which he daydreamed about playing for the Cleveland Browns. There was an exchange of tweets in October 2011 during the NBA lockout when James asked ESPN NFL analyst John Clayton, “When is the deadline for a team to sign a free agent?”
James said last May he could have been a good quarterback had he put his mind to it. That prompted Theismann to say James has the physical skills and intelligence to be an NFL quarterback if he got proper training.
Wallace, though, won’t go that far.
“I don’t know,” Wallace said about James playing quarterback. “I’ve never seen him throw. He’s a smart player. I think he’s the smartest basketball player in the (NBA). But I don’t know about his arm. I’d have to see him more. Right now, I’ll go for tight end.”
For now, with Wallace having become one of the most high-profile athletes in South Florida, he’s looking forward to getting to know James better. He met him for the first time last March at a party James held in New Orleans.
The Heat were in Wallace’s hometown to face the Hornets, now known as the Pelicans. Wallace had just bolted Pittsburgh as a free agent to sign a five-year, $60 million deal with the Dolphins.
“I met him, we shook hands and we talked,” said Wallace, entering his fifth NFL season. “He said, ‘We’re excited to have you (in Miami).’ They (James and his teammates) said they’re going to come to the (Dolphins) games. That was exciting to meet him. I’d been looking forward to it.”
Wallace last June attended Game 1 of the NBA Finals, a series eventually won in seven games by the Heat over San Antonio. He didn’t get a chance to see James at that game, which Miami lost 92-88.
The 6-foot Wallace played basketball at O. Perry Walker High School in New Orleans. Let his cousin offer a scouting report.
“He was a small forward, averaged about 12 points a game,” said Rob Wallace, who played college basketball at Mississippi’s Belhaven University and professionally last season in Romania. “He could jump high and rebound, and he could shoot. He was all right.”
Although Wallace said he can show off on the court a “40-foot plus vertical leap,” he admits he’s “not NBA material.” When it comes down to any possibility of switching sports, he’ll leave that up to James.