LeBron James cares not for the semantics of aging in the NBA.
He gets it. He is 31 and entering his 14th NBA season. He is supposed to be on the decline, firmly planted in the back end of his career, conceding touches and statuses to the younger stars, both on and off his Cleveland Cavaliers team.
He’s just not ready to accept any of that.
“Where are you on the basketball skills arc? Because it’s a hill. You’ll eventually be going down?” Nichols asked LeBron.
“I know I’m on the other side of the hill, being I’m about to be 14 [years in],” LeBron said. “But my hill, I’m not going down the hill right now. I’m still climbing.”
So, um, awkward question: Is it possible that James is still getting better?
The better question may actually be: Is it possible that he still could get better?
The answer to the second one is yes. We have seen what a completely engaged and activated LeBron can do. He led all players in the NBA Finals, from both teams, in total points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks—the first time anyone has ever done that in league history, per ESPN Stats & Info.
Couldn’t you still envision LeBron posting a player efficiency rating north of 30? Or deciding to shoot 40 percent from three-point range again? Couldn’t you see him having the best statistical season of his career next year if he wanted to?
Of course you could. James is still the superhuman who appears to have complete control over how he plays. That doesn’t mean we will see the best version of LeBron ever next season or in the years to come. We probably won’t. But given his otherworldly durability, it’s wholly possible the current version of LeBron fends off a decline for much longer than anyone could have initially fathomed.