Getty Images LeBron James, J.R. Smith

LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers teammates trekked down to Columbus on Saturday for the Ohio State-Michigan game. It's been well-documented that James, an Akron native, is a Buckeye fan and could've, would've, maybe gone to Ohio State had he played college basketball and/or football.

The defending NBA champs had a great time dancing on the field and taking in a double-overtime Buckeyes victory. But James and one teammate, J.R. Smith, walked away from Ohio Stadium with more questions than answers. You see, James and Smith are the only two Cavs who did not attend college.

"The question is, being that we played professional basketball, didn't go to college, can we come back and play college football?" Smith asked in a video on Uninterrupted, posted during the game. "Do we still have eligibility? Somebody give us the answer … Wide receiver always looking good."


Tristan Thompson, who attended Texas for one year, laughs at Smith. James adds, "I say yes! I say yeah! I'm trying to play a snap for Ohio State Buckeyes -- straight up."


Before the season, while Smith and the Cavs were deadlocked in contract negotiations, the 31-year-old put up a ton of shots on social media, joking (allegedly) about playing for the Cleveland Browns. He even referenced his high school playing days.


#Thoughts? I need a #CowboysPic someone look out!

A photo posted by JR Smith (@teamswish) on


Meanwhile, James actually has success on paper to validate his gridiron potential. He was an all-state wide receiver at St. Vincent-St. Mary's as a sophomore, and as a junior, he was part of a team that went to the state semifinals. James did not play his senior year, but he was in contact with Division I programs. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, who was the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame from 1996-2000, had a teenage James on his radar.

Okay, so back to the original question: can LeBron James and J.R. Smith play college football?

The answer is probably not. But it has nothing to do with James and Smith going pro in a sport other than football. The NCAA allows athletes to earn a salary in a pro sport as long as they maintain their amateur status in the college sport they intend to play. For example, Russell Wilson attained a $200,000 signing bonus with the Colorado Rockies while still playing quarterback for North Carolina State (and then Wisconsin).

But Wilson was a Minor League Baseball player and did not sign endorsement deals. That is where this gets sticky. It is hard to imagine the NCAA would overlook contracts with such sports brands such as Nike to allow Smith and James to play college football.

Of course, they could apply for an exemption and probably get off the hook by paying their own way to Columbus (they can afford that), but this conversation has gone on a tangent. James and Smith of the defending champion Cavaliers will probably focus the remainder of their athletic potential on basketball.

-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.

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