Durability is a huge concern for NBA players, coaches and executives nowadays, especially with all those new trends about load management to keep starts fresh for the playoffs.
It looks like players just don’t want to play anymore, as they’re getting paid like full-time employees, but are resting on back-to-backs or when their teams face easier competition.
Moreover, players just look like more injury-prone nowadays and will sit out a couple of games because of a tweaked ankle, something that was out of the question a decade ago.
So, just for the sake of the argument, let’s take a look at some NBA stars and how durable they’ve been throughout their careers, counting the seasons they played in – at least – 80 games:
Kawhi Leonard – 0 (9 seasons in the NBA)
Kawhi Leonard has fired a lot of controversy with his load management trend. On one hand, fans want to see the best players out there and resting Leonard every now and then really hurts the Clippers’ chances to compete as well as their team chemistry.
On the other hand, the Raptors proved that managing Kawhi’s load was the perfect way to get him fresh for the playoffs and he led them to a Championship. Still, he’s been quite injury-prone and has only played 70 games once on his career.
Anthony Davis – 0 (8 seasons in the NBA)
There’s absolutely no doubt that Anthony Davis is one of the most talented players in the game. He can impact the offense and defense, score at a high clip, play below the rim, near the perimeter, and has the skill set of a shooting guard.
However, durability has always been a major concern with him, as he’s constantly getting hurt and missing games with injuries. Thus far, he’s never played in more than 75 games, and that’s the only thing actually holding him back right now.
Kyrie Irving – 0 (9 seasons in the NBA)
Kyrie Irving missed most of his NCAA tenure with an injury but he was so talented that he was still taken with the 1st overall pick of the Draft. However, his story with injuries hasn’t changed a bit since making it to the big stage.
Kyrie was used to miss games in Cleveland as the team wasn’t in a position to compete anyways, but that trend kept going once LeBron came back, and once he made it to the Celtics and Nets. Thus far, he’s never played more than 75 games.
Giannis Antetokounmpo – 3 (7 seasons in the NBA)
You can tell Giannis Antetokounmpo simply doesn’t want to miss a single minute of a game. He’s always craving to get back on the court, and just looks angry and sad when he’s forced to sit out with an injury, as he’s healthy for most of the time.
Still, for one reason or another, Giannis has only played 80 games during 3 of his 7 seasons in the league. However, he’s been quite durable, as he’s never made less than 72 appearances over a season, even despite the load management trend.
Karl-Anthony Towns – 3 (5 seasons in the NBA)
Even though the Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t exactly been competitive, Karl-Anthony Towns has refused to sit out and take care of his body. If he’s healthy, he’ll play, and thankfully, he’s been healthy for most of his young career in the NBA.
As a matter of fact, he never missed a game during his first three seasons in the league, and just missed 5 games the past season. This year, however, he’s not likely to make 80+ appearances again, as he’s only been able to play 23 games so far.
LeBron James – 3 (17 seasons in the NBA)
We always praise LeBron James for the way he takes care of his body. He’s still out there flying high like a teenager, catching bodies, and playing at a high level despite being one of the elder players in the most competitive league in the world.
However, LeBron has only played 80+ games 3 times over his career, and he’s only played all 82 games once. He’s one of the pioneers of the load management trend, as he’s rarely injured. Still, he doesn’t get the criticism other players have to deal with for sitting out.
Kevin Durant – 4 (12 seasons in the NBA)
Kevin Durant is set to miss the whole season while nursing an Achilles injury, and hopefully, that’ll be the last time we’ll see him sit out until he decides to retire. Nonetheless, that seems unlikely with all the load management going on.
While Durant hasn’t been injury-prone throughout his career, he’s only played 80 games 4 times so far. He’s had two major injuries that kept him on the shelf for a long period of time, but other than that, he’s been running and gunning.
Damian Lillard – 4 (8 Seasons in the NBA)
Just like Karl-Anthony Towns, Damian Lillard never missed a game during his first three seasons in the league. Ever since, he’s played in 75, 75, 73, and 80 games. However, he’s been forced to sit out for a couple of games this season with injuries.
Lillard is the kind of hustler that will always try and play through pain. He’s not afraid of putting his body on the line to try and take his team to the top, as he showed in the playoffs last season. Notably, he wouldn’t have to do that if the Blazers gave him more help.
James Harden – 4 (11 seasons in the NBA)
James Harden has never been injury-prone. However, he tends to miss a game or two, especially towards the final passage of the season, when his team has already clinched a playoff berth and he’s sore and banged up after carrying them all season.
Harden has only played all 82 games once throughout his career, but he’s never played less than 62, during his final year at Oklahoma. Barring injury, he’s going to keep that streak going this year, unless Russell Westbrook is able to carry the load on his own.
Kobe Bryant – 6 (20 seasons in the NBA)
To be fair, Kobe did play through the entire 1998-99 season, but due to a lockout, that season didn’t start until February and teams played just 50 games. Other than that, he made more than 80 appearances 6 times, including four 82-game seasons.
The Black Mamba was never looking to sit out. He always wanted to be out there, leading his Los Angeles Lakers to the top of the world. I think there wasn’t a doctor, coach, or teammate that could even suggest Kobe of sitting out and rest that wasn’t going to hear a piece of his mind.
Russell Westbrook – 7 (12 seasons in the NBA)
Russell Westbrook didn’t miss a single game during the first 5 seasons of his NBA career, including that 66-game season due to the 2011-12’s lockout, and other than the season he injured his knee 6 years ago, he has rarely missed a game.
Westbrook is arguably the most athletic player in the league. He’s strong, fast, and physical, so you know he’s not afraid of getting knocked out and playing banged up. If he’s able to walk, he’s going to play, that’s just the Westbrook way.
Michael Jordan – 11 (15 seasons in the NBA)
This is just one of the many reasons Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all time. Like he said ‘you get paid to play 82 games, so you better give me 82 games’. That’s just the way he thought, and he definitely lived up to those words.
As a matter of fact, Jordan even played in all 82 games at 39 years old during his stint with the Washington Wizards, starting 63 and playing 37.0 minutes a night. Oh, and he averaged 20.0 points on 45% from the floor as well. Load management? no thanks.