ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --**As a former college basketball standout-turned-Pro Bowler, tight end Julius Thomas knows what kind of athletic skill set lends itself to the transition he has made in the last four years.
So when he watches the Miami Heat's LeBron James, he doesn't just see the NBA's brightest star of his generation; he sees an athlete who could have flourished as an NFL tight end, as well.
"No question. If I can do it, he has the ability to do it," said Thomas.
The tight end's interest in the NBA Finals between the Heat and San Antonio Spurs is keen, even though his beloved Los Angeles Lakers were off the radar this year. Thomas' love of the NBA remains as strong as ever, even as a fan.
But he won't make a pick in the Finals, although he admires both sides.
"I'm not sure. I picked the Spurs last year," he said. "I thought, I don't know, I like the way the Spurs play a lot. People don't like the Spurs, their style of game, but that's the way it's supposed to be played in my opinion.
"I can't say who's going to win. It's hard to pick against the Heat. They have tremendous talent. LeBron (James), you know, playing at such a high level, best player in the world. You know, when he wants 40, he goes and gets 40. So I'm just going to be a spectator and look forward to watching good basketball."
It's not just the teams' proficiency, but their contrasting styles, that appeals to an aficionado like Thomas.
"There's so many tremendous guys that are playing at a high level. I'm anxious to see how it plays out. For me I want to see, is Pop (Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich) going to come with the same game plan he came with last time. Like, how do you slow down LeBron and D-Wade and Chris Bosh. Are the Spurs going to continue to execute that way against a fast-paced Heat attack?
"They're so different, and they're going up against each other, and to see what's going to bend and what's going to break."