Part of LeBron James’ brilliance has been his endurance. He’s played more than 41,000 minutes in his career, which is ninth-most among active players. His body has been a key part of his stardom—he uses it to gain an advantage and it has hardly ever failed him.
Until now. Maybe.
James has to sit out two weeks worth of games because of left knee soreness and lower back strains. That’s the price of playing so hard for so many minutes over so many games over so many years. It all can catch up to the most physically fit.
James turned 30 a few days ago. In the real world, that’s young. In the NBA world, with all the punishment his body has taken (and delivered), it’s not quite old, but it’s certainly not young anymore. Hence, the concern. Could this be the point where his body breaks down?
A knee and back today, an elbow or groin next month, shoulder and hamstring after that. This is not to wish James harm. His brilliance is one to be admired and coveted for the longest time available. But players say consistently: “You can’t beat Father Time.”
The knee and back, James’ injuries, can be problematic long-term. To play with chronic pain in the knee and a bad back would be debilitating to James. . . (or anyone else). And that’s why it is smart to sit James now, even as his Cleveland Cavaliers seek to find consistency. The franchise knows to preserve the commodity that is most precious.
James does not seem overly concerned about having to sit. He said he has been in pain much of the season, especially with the knee. But where would that leave James with an unreliable body? He would not be the same, but could still be a force. He’s that good.
As it stands, he’s so physically talented that it would stand to reason he would return after his rest feeling healthy and spry. But if he does not, if the knee acts up again in a week or two or if the back becomes a constant issue, there are thousands of NBA fans who would wonder aloud about his future.
James is on pace to be considered one of the all-tme great players. That’s why these injuries that have sidelined him have drawn some real concerns. To overtake Michael Jordan as the game’s best player (or to overtake Kobe Bryant, for that matter), James has to play more full seasons, elevate his team and win more championships. His career is likely to be judged less than Jordan’s anyway, but there could not be an argument if he was consistently injured.
Shutting him down gives James a chance to stay off the knee and give the back some relief, which certainly could do wonders. He said he’ll be treated with “anti-inflammatories, rehabilitation, training room treatments and rest.”
Let’s hope this is a momentary pause and not the beginning of a battered body breaking down.