LeBron James is on a historic run, playing 18 seasons in the league at the top of his game. Even if LeBron has lost a step in his explosiveness and athleticism, he is by far the most impactful player in the league because of his basketball IQ. No player outside of Magic Johnson makes teammates better than James does, his best attribute as a leader and a winner.
But LeBron does not have it in him to carry teams on his back anymore. He did it for years in Cleveland, and it is unfair to expect that of him at 36 years old and approaching 37. Even though James is capable of winning games on his own, he should not have to exert the mental and physical energy to do that. That is why LeBron could not carry the Lakers past the Phoenix Sun in the first round of the playoffs when Anthony Davis went down with an injury.
Looking at the landscape of the NBA and how LeBron's team is shaping up for next season, it is very interesting to analyze how long The King will reign over the NBA. Is his time up next year, or will he be able to do the unthinkable and play on for many more years? The Lakers' addition of Russell Westbrook certainly makes LeBron's future more interesting, and it might be time to analyze how much longer Russ can extend The King's career.
LeBron Could Realistically Play 4-5 More Seasons
Even at 36 years old with a ton of mileage, LeBron James could legitimately play on for at least 4 more years. James has logged 1,310 total NBA games and started 1,309 of them. At an average of 38.2 MPG, LeBron has been a locomotive his entire career. With only half a year away from his 37th birthday, could The King play into his 40's?
The answer is yes. We have already seen the likes of Dikembe Mutombo (42), Vince Carter (43), Robert Parish (43), and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (41) play into their 40's, so LeBron could join that list. LeBron is reported to spend around $1 million a year to preserve his body and keep himself in tip-top shape. Considering the quality of modern medicine and technology, James could keep his engine going for a few more years.
In terms of taking care of oneself, no one does it better than LeBron James. That is why The King has not suffered any major injuries over his Hall of Fame career. Beyond taking care of his health, LeBron James has the motivation to keep going for at least 4 more years.
For one, James can surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most points scored by an NBA player. He is 3,020 points behind Kareem which means he could pass the Lakers legend in as little as 2 seasons. More importantly, LeBron wants to win more NBA championships to surpass Michael Jordan and begin building a distance between himself and the rest of the pack in the GOAT debate.
Perhaps most importantly, LeBron wants to play alongside his son, Bronny James Jr. We have seen how dedicated LeBron is to his son, and a chance to play alongside him would be one of the most incredible things to see in NBA history. With health and motivation driving him, LeBron could play until he is at least 41 years old.
The Lakers Will Always Be A Threat With Anthony Davis And Russell Westbrook Paired With LeBron's Leadership
The Los Angeles Lakers flopped this season, but we did not see the real force they can be when fully healthy. LeBron and Davis missed significant time in the regular season, and facing the #2 seed in the first round of the playoffs was not the best path to repeating as champions. Rather, we saw the best version of the Lakers when they dominated the "Bubble" last year to win the 2020 NBA championship.
As long as LeBron James is healthy and motivated, the Lakers will be a factor in the West. With Anthony Davis healthy and Russell Westbrook on board, the Lakers are actually the favorites. Davis is already a Hall of Fame player, and at 28 years old, has accomplished more than most. Davis is already an 8-time All-Star, 4-time All-NBA performer, and an NBA champion. Anthony Davis is also the best big man in the game because no power forward or center can do what he does on both ends of the floor.
Davis is a career 51.4% shooter from the field, averaging 32.1% from three and 79.9% from the stripe. He also averages 2.3 BPG and 1.4 SPG in his career, showcasing his all-around talent. Davis is also getting better as he plays alongside LeBron James. Davis has developed a killer instinct with LeBron giving him the confidence to lead the team in scoring and is capable of taking over games better than ever before.
Davis and LeBron are the biggest and most talented duo in the league, but also very unselfish. They want to win and do not care about individual accolades such as MVP awards. That makes them a very attractive duo for stars to play with, which makes the Lakers an even more attractive destination. That is why Los Angeles pulled the trigger to bring in a ball-dominant star in Russell Westbrook, because Davis and James will not mind having him control the ball. With LeBron leading the team on and off the court and Davis and Westbrook dominating his position; the Lakers will be a threat for many years to come.
LeBron James Will Not Win More Than 1 NBA Championship Before His Retirement
Even with LeBron motivated and the dominance of Anthony Davis with the Lakers, LeBron James will only retire with one more ring around his fingers. That means LeBron will never equal Michael Jordan's 6 rings, and perhaps will never surpass the shadow of the Bulls legend.
The reasons are multiple. First of all, the Western Conference is stacked. The Phoenix Suns made the Finals this year with a 24-year old Devin Booker and a 22-year old Deandre Ayton, so imagine what they could do in the next few years. Not to mention, Monty Williams is looking like a special coach who will only improve by the year.
The Golden State Warriors will also rise again. They have the best point guard in the world and the best two shooters in NBA history. With plenty of young talent and picks, the Warriors are also likely to acquire a third superstar to keep them contending for another championship. Looking towards Dallas also reveals potentially another powerhouse. Luka Doncic is a special talent, and with how shrewd the Mavericks are in business, the Slovenian will likely be part of a dominant superteam (hint: Nikola Jokic).
Even looking out East, it is apparent LeBron James won't have an easy opponent even if he makes the Finals. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 2-time MVP and if he develops a jumper over the next few years, he will be completely unstoppable. The Bucks were in the NBA Finals and won the championship after all. Most importantly, the Nets superteam will be together for at least 3 years.
Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving are all under contract for a few more years and they are the most talented group of stars in NBA history. There is an absolute certainty that Brooklyn will win at least 1 or 2 championships over the next few years if they keep healthy. With this amount of competition, the Lakers' title chances are cut down and spread to the rest of the pack.
Westbrook with James and Davis is enough to help the Lakers win again, but that might be the final core for LeBron James to retire as a 5-time NBA champion before riding off into the sunset because 6 rings look out of the question.