LeBron James is still killing it in his 19th season in the NBA. At 37 years old, he’s not shown signs of decline, and if the L.A. Lakers made the postseason or had a better season, James would have entered the MVP discussions. However, the way he’s playing also puts pressure on other aging players.
LeBron’s a freak of an athlete
James has set the standards of how an athlete should age insanely high. He is the ultimate proof that if players have the discipline and the money to invest in their bodies, they too could enjoy the same success and dominance that he is having. But other players are not LeBron James, and there are only a few who could do the same such as Tom Brady, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Leo Messi.
LeBron’s averages at 37 years old: 30 points per game, 6.3 assists on 52.3% field goal shooting. He was almost the scoring champion but failed to win it due to missing the required number of games. The expected life peak of basketball players happens at around 27 to 28 years old, and it starts declining from 30 years old. This proves James is a freak of an athlete who continues to defy Father Time. But make no mistake, science and money helped a lot.
The Lakers star is known to put a premium on his conditioning and watches what he eats closely. He is also fortunate not to have suffered some career-ending injuries so far. But as we marvel at how James defies logic at 37 years old, the same can’t be said of some of the other players in the league.
Unfair to other veterans?
Perhaps they seemed old because they failed to add other aspects to their games. Maybe their impact dipped because they failed to contribute to other areas on the floor. For example, when a player is in his mid-30s, expect the explosiveness to decline. Westbrook and Howard made a living out of their athleticism. Now that most of it is gone or appears sporadically in games, how can they compensate for it? Unfortunately, Brodie still has not developed a reliable outside shooting. D12 has not either.
When the outside shots start missing, does Carmelo Anthony have a plan B on offense? Can he rely on his back to the basket moves? LeBron improved his efficiencies on free-throws, 3-point shots, and 2-point attempts, while Melo’s FT and 3-point % declined this season.
There’s a lot of chatter in the current playoffs if we are seeing the start of Kevin Durant and James Harden’s decline. At 34 and 32 years old, respectively, if they are indeed declining, it’s just part of the life cycle of an NBA player. However, it becomes a hot topic because they are superstars, and when compared to James, who’s still doing it at a high level, the unfair comparisons start to show.
Fans and basketball analysts need to recognize that part of what makes LeBron James special is his longevity and performance on the court. James should be credited for taking care of his body and adding more weapons to his offensive arsenal. However, players who start to decline should also be viewed as natural and normal progress. Of course, not all players are like LeBron. It’s unfair, but it is what it is.