With Tom Brady winning his seventh Super Bowl at 43 years old over the weekend and LeBron James putting up another MVP-caliber season for the Lakers at 36 years old, a big talking point on social media over the last several days has been the nature of athletic primes, and whether or not we’re seeing them start to get longer with improvements in modern-day sports science.
Tom Brady is 43. Serena and Federer are 39. LeBron is 36. Time for us to adjust our concept of what an athletic prime can be. They are special talents obviously but I think developments in nutrition/body science/etc. are going to lead to longer, better careers.— Addisu Demissie (@ASDem) February 8, 2021
It turns out that discussion includes with James himself, who says that as someone who has watched Brady play since he was leading Michigan against “THE Ohio State University Buckeyes,” he is maybe even more impressed than most with Brady’s latest Super Bowl triumph.
“For him to win another one yesterday in the fashion that he won, it was pretty cool. It was very inspiring for a guy like myself,” James said after his own latest counterpunch against old age, a 28-point, 14-rebound, 12-assist triple-double in the Lakers’ 119-112 overtime victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, their second straight overtime win.
The game was James’ ninth triple-double since turning 35, passing Lakers assistant coach Jason Kidd for the most in NBA history by any player that age or older. James played 43 minutes in the victory, his sixth time playing over 37 minutes in the last eight games. And during the shortest turnaround in NBA history, he has also played in every game so far for the Lakers this season.
All of it has made it natural to ask how long James can keep this up. If he’s in MVP consideration at age 36, couldn’t he potentially play as long as Brady has? It seems possible, even if James claims he’s not thinking about that.
“Two different sports, two different positions. I don’t know how long I’m going to play the game. I don’t know how much more I’ll be able to give to the game, but the way I feel right now, we’ll see what happens,” James said. “I have no timetable on it. I have no year of, ‘OK, do I want to play until 30 this, or 40 that?’”
That’s a marked change since last month, when James joked that he’d retire before age 46 because his wife would get mad at him if he played that long. In a moment where he was being a bit more serious, he left the date he’ll finally hang up his signature Nikes a little more open-ended.
“You know, the game will let me know when it’s time, and we’ll figure it out then,” James said.
How soon will that be? Who knows. But while James claims he isn’t tired, as he pushed back his chair from his postgame Zoom chat with reporters and (maybe) thought he was muted, he was a bit more honest.
“I’M SLEEPY AS SHIT!” James yelled to no one in particular, walking out of the room.