Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James is rewriting the books on what is possible for aging NBA players. At 35 in his 17th season, James is arguably just as dominant as he was during his prime years with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, finishing second in MVP voting this season after averaging 25.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and a league-leading 10.2 assists per game while leading the Lakers to the best record in the Western Conference.
That dominance has continued this postseason, where he's averaging 26.6 points, 10.5 rebounds and 8.9 assists as the Lakers sit three games away from the NBA title. With LeBron, however, it's always about more than the numbers. His ability to read the floor and remain one step ahead of the defense is unparalleled, perhaps in the history of the game. It's unheard of for a basketball player to remain at this elite of a level, both physically and mentally, this far into a career -- he's approaching 60,000 minutes in the regular season and postseason combined.
So how has he done it? James said on Thursday that all of his life experience has led him to the point where he has "no weakness" on the basketball court.
"The best teacher is life experience. I've played against great coaches throughout my whole career, not only in the regular season but in the postseason, throughout first, second, third, Finals runs. I've played against some exceptional coaches, great coaches, Hall of Fame coaches, Hall of Fame players.
"They've all, opponents and coaches, helped me get to this point where I am today, to a point where I have no weakness, offensively or defensively, to where if I can read a defense, I can exploit it. I can put myself in a position to be successful. It doesn't mean that the ball goes in all the time, but there's nothing out on the floor that I cannot do at this point in my career.
"That's all because of the competition and the adversity and the losses and everything I've been through throughout the course of my career. At that point in time I say I've got to work on this because that's what they're allowing me to have; now I've got to work on this because they're shutting this down in my game. It's just like I said, the best teacher in life is life experience, and I've experienced it all."
Those are incredibly confident words from James, but as Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean aptly put it, "It ain't bragging if you can back it up." LeBron has backed it up, and then some, in this year's playoffs. Not only has he put on offensive displays like his 16-point fourth quarter to dispatch the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals, but he's also bought in on the defensive end from Day 1 of the 2019-20 season -- which had been the only noticeable area of decline for him over the past few years.
LeBron reminds you of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, quarterbacks who became better with age as their mental rolodexes continued to expand from years of experience. But it's much more common for quarterbacks to dominate well into their 30s than it is for NBA players.
What we're seeing from LeBron is special, and this playoff run has truly cemented that. He'll add yet another accolade to his legacy if he and the Lakers can put away the Heat for his fourth NBA title.