In the past few years, we've seen signs that LeBron James is human. For 15 years, there was reasonable doubt that was the case. No one has played more minutes, particularly intense playoff minutes, and remained so physically dominant as LeBron James did. Last year's groin injury was the first significant injury in LeBron's career - the first time his body gave up on him.
But LeBron's not the only player investing a lot of time and resources into his body. The hyperbaric chambers and stuff like that are great myth-building, but it's not like other guys are eating ice cream and sitting on their couch. A lot of players are doing cutting-edge stuff to stay in peak physical shape, yet LeBron outlasted every one of them (and anyone in history, I might add). So what's his secret? Dwyane Wade says the answer is straightforward.
[points to the sky] This dude up there. (Out the womb!) He gave him everything. Here's the thing. We know about taking care of your body. What you put in your body; nutrition. We understand the training that you need. I've seen this guy [LeBron] taking care of his body and own it. But I've also seen guys can roll their ankle and be out four weeks. I've seen this guy roll his ankle and come back and give you 20 in the 4th quarter. I'm talking about a BAD rolled ankle; I'm like, 'Oh, he done.' I'm out 4 weeks with this rolled ankle, he come back 4th quarter, scores 20.
Dwyane Wade, I AM ATHLETE
This may seem like a slight diss, other athletes being jealous knowing they did all the work and sacrifice LeBron did but weren't granted the genetic gifts James has. There's some of that here, for sure. But I think two important lessons support LeBron's greatness in this explanation by DWade.
First of all, part of LeBron's longevity is a result of his basketball IQ. As he got older, James put himself in less risky situations, playing at a controlled pace. Wade didn't have that because the moment he stopped attacking the rim and banging bodies, he stopped being DWade. LeBron has the outside shot he didn't have, even in his Miami days. James also improves as a playmaker every year. All that skill development enabled James to avoid the paint many times and still impact the game on every play at a very high level.
The other point is why LeBron is the only guy that legitimately gets to put up his case for GOAT against His Airness. With all the genetic gifts he was born with, LeBron worked like he was the least gifted guy. We've had a lot of athletic freaks of nature. But human nature sneaks in and tries to make it fair for others - those guys usually don't put in as much work. They sneak in a dessert here, a junk food cheat meal there, and still jump over most guys they play against.
From the moment he came into the league, LeBron was the most athletic guy on the floor. Yet he still worked and sacrificed as much as the next guy, if not more, because he wasn't just competing against Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant, or Kawhi Leonard. He is chasing Michael Jordan. To have the willpower and motivation to stay so committed for such a long time is probably the most impressive feat in LeBron's career. But, Wade did point out God still had a sense of humor and took one thing away from LeBron.
He received the most on day 1, but everything that came after is even more impressive, knowing he could've been winning with less work and dedication. And he ain't done yet.