Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 11/30/11
LeBron James has developed a reputation for disappearing in the fourth quarter of games, but Wednesday night, James finally silenced his critics for good or at least until the NBA season gets started. James' sliding interception with 13 seconds to play secured a 70-63 Team LeBron victory over Team Durant in an exhibition flag football matchup between two of the NBA's biggest stars. The highly anticipated game between James and Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, which was played at the indoor practice facility at the University of Akron and broadcast live on UStream, was born from a Twitter challenge after both players participated in pickup flag football games during the NBA lockout. James, who has been vocal about his desire to play professional football, was eager to put his pigskin talents on display, and though the opposing talent was hardly NFL-caliber, LeBron was clearly the best of the bunch. That said, his performance probably didn't do much to help him get an NFL tryout anytime soon. James' team took the field dressed in gold Nike jerseys with dark-green text James' high school colors at St. Vincent-St. Mary's in Akron and Durant's team wore white Nike duds with burnt-orange text and numbers, an homage to Durant's college days at the University of Texas. Team Durant had the ball first, and The Chosen One didn't take long to get in on the action on defense. On the opening drive, James intercepted a pass from Tony Durant (Kevin's brother) and returned it to the Team Durant five-yard line. But in a rare showing of defensive fortitude in a game with a final score that resembled something out of the Arena League, Team Durant forced three straight incomplete passes, including an impressive second-down deflection in the end zone by Justin Zormelo, to force Team LeBron into a fourth-and-goal try. On fourth-and-goal, Team LeBron quarterback Willie McGee pitched the ball to receiver Ray Fisher, who was stopped short of the goal line. After the stop, Team Durant took over inside their own five and charged down the field, taking a 7-0 lead on a two-yard pass from Tony Durant to Avery Diamond. But that early lead would prove to be Team Durant's only advantage of the night. After the Team Durant touchdown, Team LeBron took over at its own 20-yard line, and three plays later, McGee hooked up with James for a 50-yard, game-tying touchdown pass. On the ensuing Team Durant drive, James showed off his defensive prowess once more, grabbing his second interception of the night and returning it 95 yards and doing the Deion Sanders dance for the final 10 on his way to a touchdown. Tony Durant's second touchdown pass of the night tied the game at 14 with 5:53 left in the first half, but Team LeBron added two more touchdowns before the break, one set up by an athletic interception from Craig Fuller, to take a 28-14 lead with 3:46 left in the half. However, not to be outdone, Kevin Durant cut the lead to 28-21 with an impressive touchdown grab over James on a 29-yard jump ball with 12 seconds left in the first half. Then the shootout really got started. At the start of the second half, the teams made the decision to extend the quarters to 15 minutes apiece they had been 10 minutes long in the first half and they also implemented a "five Mississippi" rule that gave quarterbacks just five seconds to get rid of the ball. The result was an hour-long third quarter that featured 63 total points, two pick-sixes, two 40-yard touchdown passes, a 50-yard touchdown pass and two 80-yard touchdown passes. The first long strike came three plays into the half, when McGee found Aaron Nichols with a 40-yard bomb to make the score 35-21. And after a Team Durant turnover on downs, Team LeBron moved deep into Team Durant territory and seemed poised to take a three-score lead early in the third. But Team Durant defender Thurman Sutton intercepted McGee's fourth-and-4 pass at the 10-yard line and housed it for a 90-yard score to cut the lead to seven. The excitement was short-lived for Team Durant, however, as McGee found Fisher for an 80-yard touchdown pass on the next play. But Team Durant responded just as quickly with an 80-yard touchdown pass of its own two plays later, cutting the lead to 42-35 just 3:26 into the third quarter. A 40-yard touchdown pass from McGee to Maverick Carter yes, that Maverick Carter and LeBron's second pick-six of the night (and the LeBron-mocking-Stevie-Johnson-mocking-Plaxico-Burress end zone dance that followed) gave Team LeBron a 56-35 lead with 10:11 left in the third. Team Durant was able to cut the lead to 63-49 by the end of the period. In the fourth quarter, it was Durant who stole the spotlight with a 105-yard interception return of his own to cut the lead to 63-56 with 10:31 to play, and after a defensive stop by Team Durant, Tony Durant's touchdown pass to Diamond Avery tied the game at 63-63 with 1:21 to play. Unfortunately for Team Durant, it left too much time on the clock, and McGee threw his 10th and final touchdown pass of the night this one a 44-yarder to Nichols with 30 seconds to go to give Team LeBron a 70-63 lead. A 36-yard pass on Team Durant's next play moved the ball into Team LeBron territory with just less than 20 seconds left in the game, but James' acrobatic interception on a pass over the middle with 13 seconds left sealed the win for his team. "Team KD, they gave it their all," James said during a postgame interview. "We just made a couple more plays down the stretch to win this game, and we came away with the victory." The win was hardly a thing of beauty, but it was fun to watch two NBA superstars square off on the gridiron as a final appetizer before the basketball season kicks off. All told, James accounted for three of his team's touchdowns, and his athletic ability can't be denied. We should just look forward to seeing it very soon back where it belongs on a basketball court.
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