Michael Vick: LeBron James of the NFL

Calling someone “LeBron James” can be either a great complement or a serious putdown depending on your view of the NBA superstar.

NFL.com, the official website of the National Football League, published an article Wednesday claiming that of all the players in the NFL, the one that should be able to most identify with LBJ is Michael Vick.

So far, the only NFL player going on about how alike he is to LeBron is Tennessee Titans’ running back Chris Johnson, but Johnson doesn’t meet the NFL.com criteria for being “Like LeBron.”

According to the article, to be in LeBron James’s category, an athlete must a transformational one, with tons of hype before ever playing in a pro league. There must be a controversial/exciting/gut check moment in their career that raises the stakes. And last, they must put up gaudy statistics, but have anything less than a championship season considered a failure.

And when the NFL.com folks took a look around their league, they chose their own once-chosen one — Michael Vick.

Vick was the top pick in 2001. He had some big playoff wins over big name stars early on. He was on his way to greatness.

Then at his height, his arrest and prison term for the dog fighting saga.

Moreover he wasn’t successful last season, but called this Philadelphia Eagles team the best he’s ever been a part of — raising expectations that didn’t need raising.

Vick still awaits his Super Bowl ring, just as James still awaits his NBA title. But James is young, and Vick is old.

The former Virginia Tech star turns 32 this month, and he’s played nine seasons (two missed for jail time). His motivation now, isn’t to be the greatest ever or to change the game. Vick just wants to win a Super Bowl.

“It’s something I think about,” Vick told The Sporting News. “No matter what else I may accomplish in this game, nothing is equivalent to winning it all. If your career ends, and you haven’t done that, it’s something you’ll always think about. I’m just happy I still have the chance.”

Another difference between the two stars, it is clear the the brash young Michael Vick of the past has grown up. For James, that remains to be seen.

“Things are completely differently for me now than they used to be,” Vick told The Sporting News. “Five years ago, I probably wouldn’t have even been here at OTAs. I don’t take things for granted anymore. I thank God for putting me in Philadelphia with the coaching staff, I have here. Coach (Andy) Reid talks to me like a son sometimes, really staying on top of me to make sure I do things right. I don’t want to disappoint the people here who put so much faith in me.”

Michael Vick’s Eagles finished 8-8 last season.

(Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)