When you think of some prime examples of durability, longevity, and consistency in the NBA world, the staple is LeBron James. The face of the league for the past 15+ years has achieved everything possible in his illustrious career, but the time has come to face one opponent he can't beat—Father Time.
"The Chosen One"
Back in 2003, LeBron entered the NBA straight out of high school as an 18-year old phenom ready to take over the league. Fast forward to the end of 2021, and LeBron is almost 37 years old. Where has the time gone? In the meantime, "King James" shattered all the expectations and became a 4x-time champion with a solid case to be the greatest basketball player of all time despite being possibly the most hated player ever also.
To be able to talk about why LeBron is so great or hated, for that matter, it is necessary to grab a seat, get comfortable and take the time to list all the events, moments, and narratives from his career. But this is not about LeBron's wins and failures on and off the court, but his unprecedented ability to stay healthy and consistently great for his whole career.
In his 19 seasons, LeBron James played in 1316 games and maintained an average of 27.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg, and 7.4 apg for his career. Every NBA player eventually falls off and drops his numbers, as age limits your time on the court and ability to do the same things you used to do. But not LeBron.
With time, he added to his game, expanded, and improved, all while minimally falling off in his athleticism. That is why James managed to stay in the top tier of players even in his mid's 30's. The ability to stay healthy and good for so long is by many LeBron's most extraordinary feat.
Like we said before, time waits for nobody, and LeBron has finally started to show signs of slowing down. Before joining the Lakers, LeBron was playing 70+ plus games on a regular basis, with deep playoff runs in which he never missed time. Talk about mileage. But ever since coming to Hollywood in 2018 at 34 years old, James's numbers regarding time on the court have dropped down drastically.
In LeBron's first season in LA, the groin injury kept him out for almost half of the season, as he played in only 55 games . The following season would be the only silver lining, as LeBron managed to stay healthy and guide the Lakers to the championship in the bubble. But then last season, trouble started again, with the severe ankle injury sidelining him for quite a bit. LeBron played a career-low 45 games last season and looked rusty, especially in the first-round loss to the Suns.
Everybody hoped the long vacation would help LeBron get back to his old ways, but the start to this season has been somewhat disappointing. LeBron has played in only six games before getting sidelined with an abdominal strain. At first, it was a mild injury that would keep James only for a week, but recent reports have revealed the situation is a bit more serious. It could take 1 or 2 months for LeBron to get back on the court. That has obviously raised questions about the already struggling Lakers team and LeBron's ability to still be the #1 guy we know.
JJ Redick says this is the first time LeBron has looked human.
NBA Media has reacted to this news right away, with a lot of analysts expressing concern for LeBron's durability and ability to be considered amongst the best at this age. Recently former NBA player and newest ESPN analyst, JJ Redick, made his debut on First Take, as he talked about how even the great LeBron has started to show signs of weakness:
"To me... It's the first time in my life, and I've known LeBron since he was 15 years old, where LeBron looks human. He had a core injury a couple of seasons ago. Last season he had an ankle injury and comes out and says, 'I don't know if I'll ever be 100% again after that.' Then another core injury to start this year."
— First Take (@FirstTake) November 9, 2021
">ESPN First Take
Redick had the chance to see LeBron's career first hand and take in how superb his physical condition is. We all heard stories about LeBron investing substantial amounts of money in his body in order to stay ready and healthy. But as James himself admitted, over the past few years, he has relaxed a bit, starting to drink wine and tequila more often. That is only natural. LeBron is up there in age, with numerous accolades already to his name.
Being in Hollywood has led to James taking a foot off the gas and enjoying himself a bit more. That, mixed with his age, has led to more frequent and severe injuries, but I'm pretty sure LeBron is not done yet. That competitive spirit and motivation to leave behind a better legacy will drive LeBron to do his best until he simply isn't able to lace them up anymore and dominate. Until that happens, you can never count "The King" out.