How many years does LeBron James have left?
Over the last fourteen years LeBron James has built a resume to be considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. The case for James being the single greatest player of all time is being made before our eyes. But the question is how much time does he have left to push his resume over the top in the eyes of the majority. When you look at the average length of an NBA career its around six seasons. This puts James well above the typical NBA career. A fairer comparison would be his fellow greats careers. Considering the careers of fellow wings that are in the greatest of all time talk could show what to expect out of the final years of LeBron James’ career.
Michael Jordan played 15 seasons over 19 years. He missed what would’ve been his 10th, 15th, 16th, and 17th seasons playing minor league baseball. Jordan also missed all but 18 games in his second season with an injury. He played in 179 playoff games adding an extra 2.2 seasons of miles onto his body.
Larry Bird played in just 13 seasons and only ever missed major time in three of his final four seasons. He missed 76 games in 1989, 22 games in 1991, and 37 games in 1992. Prior to those seasons he was as healthy as LeBron has been to this point in his career. The injuries only started in the seasons where he would have been 32, 34, and 35. The age range the king is currently marching through. With Birds 164 playoff games counted in he added an extra tw0 seasons of ware on his body.
Magic Johnson played just 13 seasons like Bird. He only ever missed major time in his second season where he missed 45 games and between 1992 and 1995 he was unable to play due to HIV. These would have been his 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16thseasons. Being on such great teams over his 13 seasons led to Johnson playing in 190 playoff games adding an extra 2.3 seasons of wear and tear.
Julius Erving had a long career over 16 seasons. He remained amazing healthy over the entire course of it with his only significant injury coming in his final season where he missed 22 games. Health wise Erving is probably the best comparison to James thus far into his career since neither suffered a major injury through their first 13 seasons. Through his career he played in 190 playoff games and 2.3 seasons of wear onto his body. Though like James, Erving recovered exceptionally well from extended playoff runs.
When comparing LeBron James to these four legends he’s right there with them in season totals. James had played 14 seasons. He hasn’t missed major time in any season which only Julius Erving could say this far into his career. In total minutes played between the regular season and playoff James ranks second of the five with 50,399. He is just 2,196 minutes away from surpassing Erving career total and should do so this upcoming season. He ranks 3rd in total games played with 1,191 and is 241 away from Ervings career total. He would need 3 more seasons to take over first place in that rank but should be in second following this next season. The advantage James holds is several years younger than any of these other legends would have been or were in their 14thseasons. That combined with his dedication to his body and modern medicine should allow him to enjoy a longer career. Recent great players have had longer careers with Bryant enjoying 20 seasons, Duncan having 19, and Nowitzki going in his 19th season.
When you pull it all together and see that LeBron is younger and healthier than any of his comparisons were at this age. There is also the fact that he will surpass them all in minutes played at a much younger age which should leave more wear and tear on his body. But to this point he has no signs of things slowing down. If the king decides he wants to play for another seven seasons his body could hold up for it and James could grace the NBA with his presence until 2024. The truth in how long LeBron James has left lies in one comment made by him to Tom Withers in The Associates Press where he said
“It’s kind of up to my kids, really,” said the 31-year-old father, who is in his 13th season as a pro. “I’ve missed so much of my kids’ tournaments and things of that nature when I’m playing. So, it’s kind of up to them. They’ll let me know when they’re tired of seeing me go away.”
When it comes down to it no one truly knows how long LeBron James will continue to play. Not even the man himself could give you a direct answer on to that. If his children allow him to he could play into his 40s and with his basketball IQ would still be a dominate force. There is also the alternative where James plays out this next season and rides off into the sunset with his trophies and rings and moves on to the part of his life where he puts his focus on his family fully before diving into the business world full time. Only time will tell but as long as the king is healthy and his children don’t miss him to much he will continue to rule the NBA.