Thursday, April 18, 2024

LeBron James acknowledges he’s nearing the end of his NBA career: ‘I don’t have much time left’

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LeBron James did something on Sunday that he’s done many times in his 21-year NBA career: he scored 40 points in a victory. How he got there, though, was a bit newer. James tied a career-high by making nine 3-pointers in the win over the Brooklyn Nets, and he needed only 10 attempts to get there. That brought his 3-point percentage to a career-high 41.6% on the season, reflecting the growing reality that James, who will turn 40 next season, has needed to change his game as a result of his age.

No longer can the four-time MVP build his game solely around his physical excellence. Instead of driving to the rim as frequently as possible, this season he has become a far more efficient jump-shooter. He’s picking his spots more than he ever has, and that’s likely to continue as James gets closer and closer to the end of his legendary career. And after Sunday’s 116-104 win, he acknowledged that the end is nearer than it’s ever been.

“I’m not gonna play another 21 years, that’s for damn sure.” James said. “Not very long. I don’t know when that door will close as far as when I’ll retire. But I don’t have much time left.”

James is eligible for free agency after the season, and reports have suggested he is likely to remain with the Lakers on a three-year deal that either hits or approaches his max salary. Such a contract would potentially allow him to play with both of his sons, as Bronny is draft-eligible this summer while Bryce becomes draft-eligible in 2026. Such a contract would carry James through the 2026-27 season.

But when you’ve reached the same calendar year as your 40th birthday, nothing is ever guaranteed. Any player his age has to take the idea of retirement on a year-to-year basis. James remains an All-NBA-caliber player for now, and he’s adjusted his game enough to remain at that level for the foreseeable future. But physical decline can strike at any time. So can injury. Those 3-pointers might stop falling, as his track record on that front isn’t exactly sterling. It might be three more years. It might be sooner. But we’ve seen the majority of James’ legendary career. Masterpieces like Sunday’s need to be appreciated now, because we probably don’t have many left ahead of us.

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