Without a doubt, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant are three of the most popular players to ever play the game. They are also three top-ten players in NBA history and have dominated the game for over a decade during their respective eras.
Because of their impact on the floor and ability to dominate the game on both ends of the floor, they are often compared with one another in terms of accolades and production. More interestingly, they have also been relevant players at the ages of 35 years old.
Seeing LeBron James dominate the game at age 35 is very impressive, but many fans forget that both Jordan and Bryant were dominated players at 35 as well.
But which player was the best at age 35? It is time to find out.
3. LeBron James
Stat Totals: 33416 points, 9155 rebounds, 9047 assists, 1982 steals, 940 blocks
Career PPG: 27.1
Career FG: 50%
Career Games Played: 1233
Finals MVP Awards: 3
MVP Awards: 4
All-Star Game MVP Awards: 3
Total Salary Earned: $272M
LeBron James at age 35 is summed up this way: dominate on the court despite a slight decrease in athleticism. James is putting up a monster 27.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 8.1 APG while shooting 59% from the floor. These are scary MVP numbers, and the Lakers should certainly be a contending team, which they are. It will be very interesting to see if James can manage to inch closer to both Bryant and Jordan and add a fourth ring to his legendary resume.
While James is a beast on the court at age 35, what he has accomplished until now is incredible. After his first Rookie of the Year season, James took off as one of the top players in the league immediately. It would take long before he became the king of the NBA, as his first NBA title in 2012 solidified this. James was a beast in Miami, destroying everyone in his path once Pat Riley and Dwyane Wade taught him how to win at the highest level.
His floor leadership and dedication to the game were later shown even more with the Cavaliers when he managed to usurp the 73-9 Warriors team led by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. James now has three NBA titles to his name, along with 3 Finals MVPs and 4 regular-season MVPs. He will also probably go down as the second greatest stat-sheet stuffer behind Wilt Chamberlain as he will be in the top 10 all-time for points and assists by the end of his career.
2. Kobe Bryant
Stat Totals: 31617 points, 6575 rebounds, 5887 assists, 1828 steals, 619 blocks
Career PPG: 25.5 PPG
Career FG: 45%
Career Games Played: 1239
Finals MVP Awards: 2
MVP Awards: 1
All-Star Game MVP Awards: 4
Total Salary Earned: $249M
Kobe Bryant’s season at age 35 was a frustrating one in team success, as he was surrounded by old and beaten up players. Big names such as Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard never clicked with one another and all eyes were looking at Bryant as to why they weren’t a number one seed. But many fail to realize how Nash was one foot into retirement due to back issues. Howard was no longer the best big man in the league and had his own back issues, and Gasol was aging without the legs to run on the break like he used to. The Lakers were therefore old and slow, with a coach in Mike D’Antoni who wanted an up and downtempo.
Still, up to that final dominate season by the great Black Mamba, Bryant already had his legacy cemented as a top-two shooting guard of all time. Bryant won five NBA titles with two Finals MVPs and plenty of spectacular plays to go along with it. Bryant is often regarded as the most capable offensive player ever and could score upwards of 50 and 60 points per night if he wanted to. Bryant most famously dropped 81 points in one of the most incredible performances ever, despite being double and triple-teamed all game long.
Bryant’s dedication to his craft, along with his tremendous skill and talent fits nicely with his five titles as he grabs the number two spot.
1. Michael Jordan
Stat Totals: 28468 points, 5694 rebounds, 4916 assists, 2253 steals, 811 blocks
Career PPG: 31.6 PPG
Career FG: 49%
Career Games Played: 902
Finals MVP Awards: 6
MVP Awards: 4
All-Star Game MVP Awards: 3
Total Salary Earned: $58M
On a far more positive note, Jordan was crowned as king of the NBA with yet another NBA title and Finals MVP to his name at age 35. Surrounded by a dominate cast of players including Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, the Bulls achieved a 62-20 record and managed to reach the NBA Finals where they won it all. Jordan achieved his sixth and final ring and his second 3-peat in dominating fashion over the Utah Jazz.
By the age of 35 years old, Jordan was considered far and away from the greatest player of all time even surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Jordan managed an incredible 10 scoring titles over his career, to go along with 6 titles and 6 Finals MVPs. Anything Jordan would’ve accomplished after the age of 35 would not make much of a difference since he dominated the league as soon as he entered. When it comes to who had the best career by the time they hit 35, Jordan will always be number one.