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LeBron James Played High School Football Because Of Aaliyah’s Tragic Death

LeBron James was famously the best basketball prospect on earth by the time he was a sophomore in high school at St. Vincent-St. Mary, but James also had a love of football, which had basketball folks rather terrified he would get an injury that would derail his promising future in hoops.

Going into his junior year he was not going to play football again, but suddenly appeared in the second game of the season for the Irish and played all season to the surprise (and dismay) of many in the NBA world. Recently, new clips of LeBron dominating on the gridiron resurfaced and it became a discussion on ESPN’s NBA Today, with plenty of current NBA fans wondering why he played such a risky sport. Brian Windhorst explained the reason James played football that season was because of Aaliyah’s tragic death in a plane crash that gave James a new perspective on pursuing his passions.

“You know why he played football?” Windhorst said. “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. 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.”

In case someone thinks this is revisionist history from Windy, James gave a quote about exactly this in Grant Wahl’s legendary 2002 Sports Illustrated cover story on James.

LeBron, of course, made it through the season mostly unharmed and has lived up to and exceeded the outrageous hype he had coming into the NBA. James has at times teased the idea of trying to play in the NFL, but was able to scratch that football itch enough in high school thanks in part to a mentality of pursuing his passions spurned on by a tragic loss in the music world.