In the last 10 years there’s been one constant in the NBA & that is LeBron James being the best basketball player in the world.
His 8 straight trips to the NBA Finals is an accomplishment that only Russell’s Celtics have done.
His dismantling of the Toronto Raptors brings memories of Jordan crushing the Knicks or more aptly the Cavs.
His dissection of the Raptors was so complete that he was nicknamed LeThanos after the Avengers villain and the city was dubbed by a commentator, “LeBronto”.
His secret weapon? His longevity.
LeBron is in his 16th season & has enjoyed a career second to few.
His resiliency has been known throughout the league and now even in movie.
Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck originally had in the script the injured player that Bill Hader’s character would do surgery on would be LeBron James but James’ associate Mav Carter explained to the movie makers that LeBron doesn’t get hurt.
The mileage on his body has never been understated.
He, in 2012, joined Jordan as the ONLY players who won MVP, a championship and gold medal in one year.
And though they have the same amount of rings he’s far surpassed Larry Bird as the greatest small forward of all time in accomplishments and minutes.
Tyronn Lue answering critics who called the Cleveland Cavaliers an old team praised the core of his group’s youth and added that James was tested and had a body of a 19 year old.
After a game he furthered his point “He had a chance to get tested this summer and they said he had a body of a 19-year-old. Maybe he’s getting younger: Benjamin Button. I don’t know. Who knows?”
A modern day Benjamin Button who’s longevity has rarely been questioned.
Some criticisms were of the times he did choose to sit out of a game. With analysts like Skip Bayless lauding how Michael Jordan played all 82 games for 8 seasons throughout his career.
Last year shut those few distractors up.
He played all 82 games and was 4 wins away from a championship.
And though he spends $1.5M on his body a year he isn’t invincible.
During the 2015 season he missed 2 weeks with a back issue but after those 7 games he looked his old self thanks to treatments & the help of biomechanist Donnie Raimon & trainer Mike Mancias.
In 2010 there was rumors that he suffered an elbow injury which would explain his poor shooting during the Celtics series.
Last year during the Finals he’s shooting went off a cliff after he, in frustration, essentially broke hand through punching a whiteboard.
But this is the first time I’ve been truly worried about him.
Everyone knows Father Time stops for no one but it seemed he’s lasted the longest.
If there’s doubt look no further than the Brotherhood, Chris Paul is currently on the sidelines with the Rockets, Melo is no longer in the league, and Dwyane Wade is enjoying his “one last dance” before he retires.
Luke Walton who was in their 2003 draft class is now James’ coach.
LeBron is Top 20 all time in minute leaders for the NBA & among active players he’s only second to Dirk Nowitzki who is 3rd overall with 50418 total minutes players.
Who is he behind? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone.
Karl Malone was a special talent and even more durable than LeBron James.
At 39 he still averaged 20 points for the Utah Jazz.
In 2004 he along with Gary Payton joined the 3x champion Los Angeles Lakers to invigorate a dynasty that included Shaq & Kobe.
Coming off of the 2003 season he’d only missed two games person season for his entire NBA career.
Unfortunately he was sidelined by a knee injury which caused him to miss almost half the season.
His teammate Gary Payton stated “Karl had never been hurt in his career, and it was a devastating injury that he couldn’t deal with. He had never missed that many games in his life.”
LeBron is hopefully not facing the same fate.
On Christmas Day against his constant foes the Golden State Warriors, James went down with a groin injury which he did not return from.
On his way to the locker room he said “I felt a pop”, a few days later Lakers fans rejoiced when the MRI revealed there was no “significant damage”.
And LeBron went as far as tweeting he “dodged a bullet” but unlike Superman he hasn’t returned to form yet.
Steph Curry preached patience and warned that LeBron shouldn’t rush the process because it can definitely be a nagging injury.
“The biggest frustration is that you get to a point where you are pain-free but you still have to be a little bit more cautious. I don’t know the severity [of LeBron’s injury], but becoming pain-free is just one step. And then you have to ramp up your load on the court to make sure everything you do won’t set you back. That is the one thing that you can’t afford with that injury, is to keep re-injuring it.”
For LeBron fans like myself this is an uncomfortable position to be in.
I’m not ready for the ride to be over. I’m not ready to tell those Al Bundy stories to these kids about my favorite player growing up.
For this to begin an era of nagging injuries which stops his goal of being in the league when his son Bronny enters the league or worse for him to become a whisper of himself after such an extended prime.
But if this truly is the end this has been a heck of a ride.
4 MVPs. 3 Rings. 3FMVP. 8 Straight Finals Appearances. Breaking Cleveland’s sports curse.