Los Angeles Lakers star forward LeBron James has received ample praise for being in prime condition amid being at the tail-end of his career. At 36-years-old, fans and critics are in agreement that James is still in peak physical form. However, Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso hinted that James' physical status is not as rosy as it seems. In the Lakers' failed title defense last season, Caruso believes that James might have hidden his actual health status to be able to suit up and play.
Caruso reflected on the Lakers' injury-riddled 2020-21 NBA season. In the shortened 72-game season, star center Anthony Davis played a mere 36 games in the regular season while James played just 45 — a career-low. Despite this, analysts were confident in the Lakers' chances at defending their title.
For them, the Lakers will get their act together just in time. James, like he has done so many times in the past, will shake off his injuries. However, Caruso shared an interesting tidbit about how injuries are genuinely an intrinsic part of the game. So much so that even a superhuman like James cannot overcome it. All he can do is "hide" it.
“It’s just the luck of the NBA. Like the COVID year we went to the bubble, we had really good luck and we had all our guys healthy. We fought through all the craziness that happened with that whole summer. And then the next year we didn’t. We got unlucky.
We couldn’t get healthy and part of that was the quick turnaround (from the bubble), too. Like, I don’t think AD ever really got back to full strength after the Finals run. I don’t even know if ‘Bron did. He did a better job of hiding it.”
Alex Caruso, The Athletic
James has missed several games since Nov. 2 this season due to an abdominal strain. Recent reports reveal that the four-time league MVP is about to return soon, though he has yet to participate in full practice or take part in contact drills. The Lakers organization did make it clear that they will closely monitor James' health this season.
With these realities in mind, it would be interesting to see if James would pull another trick from his sleeve by "hiding" an injury. It is all for a noble cause. James takes pride in being the leader of his squad. He is not the type who leads by sitting on the bench wrapped in bandages. For him, leading entails being at the frontlines with his soldiers.
However, at this point in his career, James may have to learn and embrace the other side of leadership: acceptance. Although still physically more imposing than most NBA stars, James needs to accept that his body cannot hold up to his usual 82-game regular season load. He needs to let go of the idea that camouflaging his injury is an act of zeal. LeBron needs to let go of delusions that this will beef up his case be declared the greatest.
The fact of the matter is if he goes down with an injury, then everything might go to the drain. The best thing to do is to be honest with his body and how he's feeling. Besides, James did not just get to where he is now because of his physicality. It is his superior basketball mind that guided him to four titles. It is time that he further taps into his number one asset.