Following the Los Angeles Lakers’ game-four loss to the Denver Nuggets, things split into two different stories. They celebrated the Nuggets and their first trip to the NBA Finals in franchise history. The other storyline that emerged post-game was 38-year-old LeBron James talking about hanging it up. The following occurred on Monday night after game four:
“Going forward with the game of basketball, I’ve got a lot to think about.”
When you say you got to think about stuff, what thread should we be pulling on that?” ESPN asked.
“If I want to continue to play,” James replied.
“As in next year?”
“You would walk away?”
“I got to think about it.”
3 Signs That LeBron James is a Top NBA Player of All-Time
10 Trips To The NBA Finals
James had his first trip to the NBA Finals all the way back in 2007. He led the fourth seed
Cleveland Cavilers to the Finals against a loaded San Antonio Spurs team that did sweep them, winning their third title in six years. In that first appearance, he had 22 points and seven rebounds, fairly mediocre stats for a guy who was the best prospect ever.
After that first trip to the NBA Finals, he made it back there for eight straight years. The people who count based on the number of rings have the upper hand. Michael Jordon went to six NBA Finals and won every single one.
The separator between Jordan and James is the break-in between the two realms’ success. Jordan famously took time off to pursue baseball for a couple of years. Then he came back to win three more titles. In the grand scheme of things, going to that many Finals in a row is almost impossible to do, Jordan might have done eight in a row and could have won all eight, but he didn’t. James did, which is a feat that goes under the radar most of the time.
20 Years of Playing At A High Level
Apart from the run of finals appearances, the most impressive thing might be his run of success over this two-decade career. Most players trail off when they enter their 30s. They do not get better, but somehow James was still playing at the level of someone in their mid to late 20s. Most stars at that point in their career will move into a bench role or specialty position, not a number one option on team condensing for an NBA title.
He was one of the last players taken straight out of highschool at 18 years old. The amount of pressure on someone who is looked at as still as a kid is trying to make his mark in the NBA going up against guys he was watching on television the year prior. He won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year and made the First Team All NBA Rookie Team. He might have been staring down Kobe Bryant in an NBA Finals his first year in the league, but he enters it with a bang.
The most impressive thing about LeBron James is how his game evolved, from being a pure scorer getting upwards of 30 points to someone who has passed more and led the league in assists (2020). That evolution is brutal to do since more star players don’t usually think about shifting off of what got them to that level in the first place. On top of all of that in his 20 years in the NBA, the game has changed from an inside-out game to a three-point-first game. Spacing the floor is now how the NBA works now, everyone can fire it from beyond the arch at will.
As much as he gets heat from fans and pundits alike, LeBron James is an all-time great player. He delivered his home, town Cleveland Cavaliers, an NBA Title when he returned after he ran in Miami. He is in the top five players of all time, regardless of some miscues he made when he was younger, like The Decision, the televised spectacle that he used to announce he was going to the Heat to make a super team.
He has a special place in two different organizations. Cleveland and winning the aforementioned title, but in Los Angeles as well. Following the tragic passing of arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, Kobe Bryant, he helped lead a Lakers team and city through it. That 2020 bubble playoff run of the Lakers was something special that was as emotional as it was spectacular. It’s something every Lakers fan will remember.
The short version of this comes down to what he wants to do. Does he want to return as a 39-year-old in the NBA? Risking injuries and putting in all the training that comes with it? The only thing James wants to do possibly is play with his son for a year. At that point, he would be a 40-year-old playing on a bad team. Regardless of that choice, LeBron James is an all-time great. In sports, we usually see the stars go out disappointingly, like being swept and not on top of winning another title.
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