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Okoye, King James exchange jerseys


It's only natural that rookie first-round pick Amobi Okoye would seek counsel from someone that's been in his shoes before.

The only problem is that nobody in the NFL knows what it's like to be 20 years old while balancing the life of a rookie in one of the most physical sports in the world.

At just 19 years old when the Texans drafted him out of Louisville, Okoye wanted to surround himself with a support system of family and friends. Little did he know that one of his most valuable resources would be sporting legend LeBron James, arguably the NBA's biggest star at the ripe age of 22 years old.

Chosen first overall in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers out of high school, James knows better than anyone all of the challenges that face a young professional athlete.

A mutual friend introduced Okoye and James nearly a year ago, and since then the two have kept in touch regularly.

This past Saturday, less than an hour after the Texans' team plane landed in Cleveland, Okoye was dropped off at Quicken Loans Arena to meet James after the Cavs' win over the Toronto Raptors. The two friends embraced and exchanged jerseys for a photo opportunity outside of the Cavs' locker room.

{QUOTE}James, who collected a triple-double less than an hour earlier, marveled at Okoye's unique story.

"Oh, man. For one, for him to be in college at what age he was at, and being in the NFL when some guys are just graduating high school (at his age) – he was younger than I was (when I was drafted)," James said. "So it's a great feat."

Okoye has similar admiration for James.

"A guy like LeBron, I really relate to a guy like him," Okoye said. "That's why I reached out to him. He definitely helped me out because he's been in this situation I'm in as far as being younger than most people when he came in. So he's been helping me out a lot and it's been good."

James and Okoye share a lot in common. Namely, both players want to prove that they can compete, and flourish, against players several years older than them. While James clearly has established himself as a star, Okoye is on his way with a fumble recovery and five sacks, which is the fifth-highest total in the NFL among defensive tackles.

"As young guys we want to try to represent in professional sports," James said. "It was a good mix."

James was a high school football star in Ohio, but Okoye never played basketball growing up. At 6-2, 302 pounds, Okoye claims that he can dunk, but that's about it.

Asked if he has shared any basketball tips with Okoye, James was diplomatic.

"I haven't," James said. "But I'm going to handle it on the court, and he's going to handle it on the field."

Okoye wants to see evidence of James' football exploits.

"He told me he was going to show me some tapes," Okoye said. "When I see the tape, I'll see that big boy beating down at wide receiver. So I'm going to check it out to see."

Before they went their separate ways, James and Okoye wished each other well and admired each others' jerseys. James knows exactly where he's hanging his autographed No. 91 replica.

"I'm going to frame it and I have a wall of fame where I put all of my sports jerseys up, and he'll be up there," James said.

There's a chance that James could be at Reliant Stadium soon. Okoye saw the Cavs play twice last year during the 2007 NBA Finals. Now it's James' turn to return the favor.

"No, I haven't seen him play live," James said of Okoye. "I'm looking forward to it and hopefully I'll get down to Texas and see him."

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