NBA takeover – Until what age can LeBron James play with the Lakers?

« The chosen one » (The chosen one). 20 years after making his first cover of Sports Illustrated, LeBron James is back on the bill of the famous American magazine accompanied by his two sons, Bryce and Bronny, « The chosen sons » (the chosen sons).

« I think I can still play for a long time (…) I will carefully follow the first draft rounds in 2024, 2025 and even in 2027 » entrusted the « King » to the magazine, in reference to his two sons of 15 and 17 years old, with whom he dreams of evolving one day in the NBA. At almost 38 years old, the Lakers player continues to show performances of flying high on the courts, thanks to an exceptional physique and a constantly renewed game.But can he really keep up the pace until he is 42 or even 43 years old?


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An extraordinary physique

A physical monster since his league debut in 2003, LeBron James has shown extraordinary longevity. In his 20-year career, the native of Akron, Ohio has never missed a season due to injury, accumulating 62,000 minutes and 16 playoff appearances. « I work on myself literally every day. Whether from a physical, mental or spiritual point of view (…) I always think about how I can continue to improve my game despite the passing years“, explained in December 2021 the one who comes out of a season with 30.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.2 average assists despite his 37 years.

Like Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James invests a lot of time and money on his body – 1.5 million euros per year according to ESPN – in a clever mix of bodybuilding, fitness, nutrition and sleep. The one who confesses to sleep « 12:00 p.m. per night before a game » has been able to evolve his silhouette to keep in shape despite the years. « He made the decision to lose some weight, and I think that will translate into more explosiveness and speed.“, said the general manager of the Lakers Rob Pelinka at the start of last season.

He’s doing everything better than five or six years ago

First player to accumulate 30,000 points, 10,000 assists and 10,000 rebounds, LeBron James has been able to evolve his game over the years. The specialist in devastating penetrations in the racket has also become an excellent long-distance shooter, increasingly skilled behind the arc (35.9% last season, against 31.9% 15 years ago).

James also remains a collective player who always delights his teammates with the pass (8 per game on average over the last three seasons), and still dominates on the rebound (8.2 per game last season, his fourth best career total). « He’s doing everything better than five or six years ago, when he was already supposed to be at his peak“, summarized the coach of the Sixers, Doc Rivers, last year.

LeBron James also learned to save himself, as he was the league’s slowest player in the 2020-21 season, and the third slowest last season with an average of 5.8 km/h on the ground. Statistics that did not prevent him from finishing second best scorer behind Joel Embiid (Sixers). « That doesn’t mean that James can’t move, on the contrary. This means that he chooses his moments to rest, recover to be in good shape when he presses the turbo button.“, comments Kirk Goldsberry, analyst for the chain ESPN.

LeBron James failed to prevent the Lakers from sinking, Sunday, February 27 against the Pelicans

Credit: Getty Images

Injuries that worry

If LeBron James is doing everything to last, his body seems to be starting to betray him. The man who had never experienced a serious injury and missed only 71 games in his first fifteen years in the league, has had physical problems since signing for the Lakers in 2018. He first injured his adductor during his first season in purple and yellow, missing a total of 27 matches, the longest absence of his career.

A sprained ankle then sidelined him for 26 games in March 2021, before James suffered two abdominal and ankle injuries last season, for a total of just 56 games played with his crew. « I feel like these are just accidents (…) Injuries are part of the game“, analyzed afterwards the person concerned. However, we must go back to the 2017-2018 season in Cleveland to find the trace of a season of the “King” with more than 70 matches.

Records to look for

Beyond playing with his sons, LeBron James has other sources of motivation to extend the adventure in the league. He is aiming in particular for the points record held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The former Laker scored 38,387 points in his 20-year career, compared to 37,062 for James. He could beat him next season if he accumulated at least 54 matches with an average of 25 points. A feasible scenario.

With four championship rings gleaned in Miami (2012, 2013), Cleveland (2016) and Los Angeles (2020), LeBron James will probably never beat the record of Bill Russell, the former Celtics pivot who died in July, who conquered 11 titles between 1957 and 1969. But the « King » can still catch up with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan and their six trophies. This will require the body to hold.

Dennis Schröder and LeBron James

Credit: Getty Images


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