NBA training camps have started already and the season is getting closer by the second. For the first time in the history of Cavaliers franchise, they will enter the season as defending champions. LeBron James looks great again and his support crew from last season is more than ready to step up and help him.
After playing 13 seasons in the NBA and seeing players like Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, and Kobe Bryant retire, it made him wonder about his playing days and how many of them he has left. During the media day, he even stated that he feels like his group of guys is the next on the list to hand up the sneakers after Pierce, Carter and Dirk decide that their playing days are over.
But, after 13 years in the NBA, is LeBron James still in his prime or are his best days way behind him? It’s really tough to answer that question.
Yes, his numbers are not what they used to look like just a couple of seasons ago. His best years were probably those years when Heat won the title and that season in which they lost to the Spurs in the finals. This Cleveland LeBron probably is not just as good as that Miami LeBron was.
Dwyane Wade was his real self only in his first season with James. After that, it was all downhill for Wade, especially in the next two years when he was dealing with knee injuries. LeBron could handle the pressure and that workload that was put on him.
He really needed to carry most of the load. But, as the best player on the planet, as the man in Miami, he was able to handle that. Freakish athleticism, crazy talent, skill, and preparation enabled him to do what he did.
His skill hasn’t diminished. He can still do most of the things he was able to do in his Miami days and during his first stint with the Cavaliers. But the catch is that he just can’t carry his team and do all those things consistently all season long.
He just can’t play defense at the highest level every single night. James understands that he will be judged by what he does in May and June. During the regular season, he is preserving some of his energy for moments where he needs it the most.
Can he carry the team in the Playoffs or the Finals? Yes for sure. We have seen that again this season. But, can he do it for the whole season like he was able to do it just a couple of years ago?
He can’t. And he doesn’t have to. James has good enough teammates and supporting cast, and they can give him 15-20 rest nights a year. That is why his stats are down. Don’t let that fool you. He is still the man in the NBA, and we are still in LeBron James era.