Players nowadays take different care of their bodies. They look to preserve themselves with the highest standards, preparation, technology, and a dozen experts constantly looking out for them.
Obviously, that makes them lose the occasional game or two from time to time. Either because or precaution or simply load management, it’s not usual to see a player feature in all 82 games one season. Don’t get me wrong, this is by no mean a diss towards load management. I’m just stating facts. And the fact is that players didn’t want to miss a single minute back in the day and also had long and successful careers.
That’s why Michael Jordan, who doesn’t hold the record for most 82-game seasons in NBA history, has more 82-game campaigns than 6 of the game’s biggest stars combined. Let’s break it down:
7. Kawhi Leonard – 0
Kawhi Leonard has made it pretty clear that he’ll look after him and take care of his body even at the expense of his team. He won’t suit up for regular-season games unless he’s 100% healthy and honestly, he has been kind of injury-prone even before being a superstar.
Leonard has never played more than 74 regular-season games throughout his 9-year career and that’s unlikely to change any time soon, him being the main advocate of load management in today’s game. But hey, it worked out for him, so who can blame him?
6. Steph Curry – 0
There were a lot of concerns regarding Stephen Curry’s ankles early on in his career. That’s why he slipped in the Draft, why the Warriors almost traded him, and why they were kind of wary about giving him a huge contract. However, he didn’t actually miss that many games.
Steph has averaged around 80 regular-season games per campaign except for three times. He missed most of his third year, little under half of the season in 2018, and most of this past year. He’s often talked about his desire to suit up even despite an injury, but he’s just too valuable for the Warriors to risk him.
5. Giannis Antetokounmpo – 0
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the ultimate competitor. You know he doesn’t want to sit out for any possession and that he won’t hesitate to put his body on the line for his team. However, he’s yet to have an 82-game campaign thus far in the league.
Still, Giannis is quite durable and hasn’t missed that many games over his young career. He’s played 77, 81, 80, 80, 75, and 72 games (plus 57 this season) so you know it’ll take something major to keep the Greek Freak out of the hardwood.
4. Kevin Durant – 1
Kevin Durant has been quite durable throughout most of his career. He’s even had two campaigns playing all regular-season games, even though the 2011-12 season was cut short due to the lockdown so he only made 66 appearances.
He’s only had two major injuries that have kept him on the shelf for a long time, one that’s preventing him from making his debut with the Nets. Other than that, he’s never made fewer than 72 appearances over a season but still, juts one perfect year.
3. LeBron James – 1
LeBron James is the true definition of longevity, health, and durability. I mean, he’s dominated the league for seventeen years and has only had one true major injury over his career, and that came at age 34 when he lost 27 games.
Other than that, James had never missed more than 8 games in one season, most of them coming towards the final passage of the season when his team has already locked out a playoff berth. His one and only 82-game season came at 33 years old.
2. James Harden – 2
James Harden doesn’t miss many games and that’s often bad news for opposing defenses. Actually, he’s never missed more than 9 games on a season, including campaigns of 81, 82, and 81 games from 2014 to 2017, which is impressive nowadays.
Harden has had to carry most of the offensive burden for the Houston Rockets since he broke out as their go-to-guy and he hasn’t hesitated the slightest to do it. However, he won’t play all 82-games this year as he’s already missed 3 of the Rockets’ 64 matchups.
1. Michael Jordan – 9
And of course, we have the greatest player of all time, who has twice as many 82-game seasons than all of these superstars combined. He never wanted to miss any of the action, even coming back from a career-risking injury during his sophomore year to take the Bulls to the playoffs.
When playing a full season, His Airness never played fewer than 78 games. He came back at 38 years old and had a 60-game campaign with the Wizards after multiple years away from the game and played all 82 games during his final season. He was just different.