The Incredible Longevity of LeBron

LeBron celebrated his 36th birthday yesterday in what is his 18th season in the National Basketball Association. Since LeBron arrived in the league, he has met and exceeded all of the expectations, which, is tough to do when you’ve been dubbed “the chosen one” fresh out of high school. One thing I don’t think is talked about enough though, his LeBron’s incredible longevity.

Basketball is a physical sport, and for anyone that’s played the game, you know what it does to your legs. It’s rare that any player can make it to their 18th season and not be walking with a noticeable limp after each game. Did you see Dirk towards the end of his career? It hurt just to watch him walk.

Yet, LeBron still moves as nimbly as he did at age 30, hell, maybe even age 25. This, despite the fact that he’s played over 1,200 games, and the most playoff games ever. Keep in mind that those 260 playoff games account for an extra 3 seasons of wear-and-tear on his body.

But last night, on his 36th birthday, he looked every bit like the LeBron we’ve become accustomed too over the years. He dropped 26 points, dished 8 assists, and grabbed 5 rebounds in a 14 point victory over the Spurs. He also extended his streak of games with 10 points or more to 1,000.

Which brings me to my next point: It isn’t just how long he’s been playing, but how well he has played over that course of time. Very few have achieved such prolonged dominance. Bird, Kobe, Jordan, Magic, Kareem, and Shaq are the first that come to mind.

Where LeBron can differentiate himself from those guys though, is in the upcoming years.

Most star players have retired or seen their productivity dip noticeably at age 36 or in their 18th season. If you look at Kareem’s stats, you’ll see that his numbers dropped sharply after his 18th season. If you look at Bird’s stats you’ll see that injuries took their toll and he retired just before he turned 36. Kobe’s numbers dropped sharply at age 36. The same is true for Shaq.

Considering the fact that he spends about $1.5 million on his body each year, it is likely that we’re going to see at least 2-3 more solid years from LeBron, and it is in that time, that he may be able to separate himself from the rest of the greats.

…With the exception of Michael Jordan, but that’s another conversation.

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