In 2012, LeBron James won his first NBA championship at 27 years old and the first of two championships he won with the Miami Heat under head coach Erik Spoelstra. Almost a decade later, James is expected to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a championship — his fourth — at the age of 35.
It’s for that reason Spoelstra told Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel that he thinks James has found the fabled fountain of youth:
“I think he’s got the fountain of youth that we’re all searching for,” Spoelstra said Thursday, with the Heat facing the Lakers at 7 p.m. Friday at AmericanAirlines Arena. “But I’ve said it before we played them, the last time we played, that the fountain of youth for LeBron James is a bunch of work and no days off when no one’s watching.”
James may not be the same athlete he was when he first arrived to Miami, but the difference is minimal. Plus, as he’s gotten older, he’s become better at other things like shooting and — if you can believe it — passing.
This season, he’s averaging a career-high 10.8 assists per game to go along with 25.8 points, 7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. With his 35th birthday less than two weeks away, James is the only player in the NBA averaging at least 25 points and 10 assists per game.
James is defying all laws of nature, but Spoelstra is well aware of the work James puts in to stay in pristine shape:
“This doesn’t happen by accident,” Spoelstra said. “During the summer, he rarely takes a bunch of time off. So it’s not like he’s working to get himself fully back into shape after enjoying three or four months of doing nothing. He’s usually about, at any point during the summer, he’s probably three or four, five days away from being ready to rock for training camp.
“He invests a lot of time into his craft and to his body, on all levels, to give himself the best chance of fighting something that we will all lose to. But when you give a great fight that most people aren’t willing to do, you can do remarkable things.”
James is under contract with the Lakers through 2021 and he has a player option for the 2021-22 season. By then, James will be 37 years old, but if he’s playing at anywhere near the level he’s playing right now, he may seek a contract for more years and go after Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record.
It seems like an insurmountable feat, and maybe it is, but if anyone has a shot at doing it, it’s James. If Lakers fans are lucky, he’ll do it wearing a Lakers uniform.
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