Before its biggest test to date in its quest for a national championship, the Ohio State football team will seek inspiration from a current world champion who hails from the Buckeye State.
An Ohio State spokesperson confirmed to BuckeyeSports.com that Miami Heat star and reigning two-time NBA Finals MVP LeBron James will be on the third-ranked Buckeyes’ sideline on Saturday for the team’s primetime matchup with No. 23 Wisconsin. Original plans also had James giving a pregame speech to the team, but that will no longer take place.
A product of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, James is a longtime fan of the Buckeyes, and even has his own commemorative locker in the Ohio State basketball locker room. But while it’s the Buckeyes basketball team who wears James’ Nike line of shoes and gear, the four-time NBA MVP also has ties to current OSU head coach Urban Meyer.
An All-State wide receiver during his high school playing days for the Irish, James was recruited to play football by Meyer, who served as Notre Dame’s wide receivers coach from 1996-2000. At Big Ten media days in 2012, Meyer spoke of his failed attempt to lure the future No. 1 overall NBA draft pick to South Bend.
“‘Thank you very much, I’ll consider it,’ and his coach started laughing,” said Meyer, recalling James’ response to his scholarship offer. “I didn’t know what he was laughing at, so we went down and sat in a room and he said, ‘Do you know who that is?’ and I said, ‘No’ and he said, ‘LeBron James’ and I said, ‘Who’s LeBron James?’ and he said, ‘He’ll be the next Michael Jordan’ and I go, ‘Come on.’ “
Now, arguably the biggest star in sports, James has seen unprecedented scrutiny in past years, something which Meyer doesn’t understand. While it remains to be seen what James’ message to the Buckeyes will be, the Ohio State head coach praised the former Cleveland Cavalier for his focus on the court, and character off of it.
“Give me all kinds of LeBrons,” Meyer said. “You just see the way he articulates, his look, the way he treats people, the focus. We use him in those leadership meetings we use, those videos, his face is plastered all over them. First of all, our guys all admire him. And the head coach really admires him.”
The Buckeyes and Badgers will kick off at 8 p.m. on Saturday in a nationally televised game on ABC.