Coming into the 2019-20 NBA season, there were questions as to how LeBron James would perform in his 17th season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
James had arguably the worst season of his career and dealt with injuries in the prior season so that –combined with the miles accumulated in his illustrious career — led many to believe his play would finally begin to tail off.
On the contrary, however, James has defied all possibilities of his demise, leading the Lakers to the best record in the Western Conference and pushing himself into the forefront of the 2019-20 NBA Most Valuable Player award race alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo. His performance has been truly inspiring even amongst his peers.
It’s crazy. Yeah. The thing about it is, I played, like you said, these 14 years for me. I’ve had injuries, I’ve done all of that. To see LeBron, at this point in his career, still be healthy and still be able to play at that pace, he’s like a Decepticon or something, man. Do you know what I mean? I don’t know how it is. It’s hard to believe, but it’s different than back in the days. He started at what — 19, 18 years old, coming in? And so at Year 17, he’s what, 34, 35?
Gay did bring up a good point in that players like James and Kobe Bryant before him came in the league straight out of high school so in their 17th seasons, they were 34 or 35 years old as opposed to pushing 40 years old like players in past eras who played this long.
Of course, the reason James has been able to do so is because of the work he puts in taking care of his body. As Gay noted, that has allowed James to remain at a high level despite the ridiculous amount of extra minutes he’s had to play in his career:
Yeah. LeBron revolutionized that, taking care of your body and what people do, because before, obviously, you’d just go out there and hoop. But it’s longevity and he knew that from the beginning. So he’s been taking care of his body, been doing whatever it takes to stay out there on the court. And the thing about it, LeBron’s been playing in the Finals, he’s been playing in the Olympics, he’s been doing everything. So you’ve got to take your hat off to somebody that’s put that much time into the game.
James made the NBA Finals every season between 2011-18 and in the midst of that also had two Olympics that he performed in. He may be in Year 17, but he has tacked on an extra 3-4 seasons worth of games and minutes between the NBA playoffs and Olympic runs.
What James has done this season is nothing short of remarkable and the fact that other NBA players are in awe of his performance says everything.