LeBron James’ Year 17 Was Special
Updated: Oct 26, 2020
For 17 seasons, we’ve witnessed LeBron James continuously playing at an elite level. Now, at an age when most players show signs of slowing down, he seems to be getting better and better.
Hitting the 17th year of your career in the NBA could mean you start to perhaps lose those prime powers you had and start to decline a little. Perhaps Father Time takes over and makes you realize it’s time to end your basketball career. For LeBron, it almost seems like he’s just getting started.
In his first year in LA, Lakers fans did not get to see LeBron dominate in the playoffs because of a groin injury that lingered all season long. He promised the fans he’d get the team back to the playoffs. It took an extra year, but LeBron kept that promise and now they're NBA champions.
The Lakers run in the 2020 playoffs was quite interesting. Minus the Finals, which they won 4–2, they kept winning each series 4–1. In every series, the Lakers had one game that they played horribly. They’d come out with no energy, and whichever team they were playing would jump into a huge lead and the Lakers would find themselves having to claw their way back.
The Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, and Miami Heat were formidable opponents, with lots of star players, that made the Lakers have to work for each win.
Against the Miami Heat, the Lakers had two games (including the one with the Mamba jerseys), that were awful. They started horribly and played lackadaisical basketball the whole way . But anytime the Lakers had a bad game, they came back swinging and played elite defense that opened up their offense, and it was lights out from there.
Let’s take a look at Lebron’s numbers in each series of this year’s playoffs from the Orlando bubble:
Round 1 against the Portland Trail Blazers: 27.4 PPG, 10.2 APG, 10.2 RPG, 1.2 SPG, while shooting 46.4% from 3 and 60% from the field. LeBron was putting up monster numbers against the Blazers with multiple 30+ point games.
In this game 1 loss, he put up an insane triple double.
Round 2 against the Houston Rockets: 25.8 PPG, 7.4 APG, 2 SPG, 10.4 RPG, 1.8 BPG, while shooting 29.4% from 3 and 51.1% from the field. One of the more impressive things about this series was the amount of times LeBron played outstanding defense against Russell Westbrook.
Here he is blocking 3 of Westbrook’s shots:
Between those series, while his box-score production dipped he was still piling up major numbers. More than good enough numbers to help his team make it the following round.
Western Conference Finals against the Denver Nuggets he averaged: 25.8 PPG, 1.8 BPG, 2 SPG, 7.4 APG, 10.4 RPG, while shooting 29.4% from 3 and 51.1% from the field. In this series, for game 5, he took over the 4th quarter to seal the deal and help the Lakers advance to the NBA Finals. Jamal Murray had himself quite a historic playoffs, but a lingering injury had him slowed down during this series.
Here’s some video from Bleacher Report showing his dominant 4th quarter in Game 5 of that series:
NBA Finals against the Miami Heat: 29.8 PPG, 1.2 SPG, 8.5 APG, 11.8 RPG, while shooting 41.7% from the 3 and 59.1% from the field.
His incredible Finals averages led him to his 4th Finals MVP award. He also took on the roll of guarding Jimmy Butler and making it really hard for him to get his shots going consistently. Butler did have one historic game of 40 points, 13 assists, and 11 rebounds.
During the regular season, he averaged: 25.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 10.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, while shooting 49.3% from the field and 34.8% from 3. He led the league in assists this season, marking the most assists he's averaged in his career.
For some fun, let’s look at LeBron’s Lakers numbers so far compared to Kobe’s career numbers. LeBron is averaging 26.3 PPG, 9.3 APG and 8.1 RPG in one-and-a-half seasons as a Laker so far. In Kobe Bryant’s entire Lakers career, he averaged 25 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 4.7 APG. Both their Lakers careers, with obviously more to go for LeBron, have had really fantastic and similar trajectories. Kobe’s last few years had him dealing with injuries. LeBron started off with a season-ending groin injury in his first year with the team.
It’ll be fun to see where LeBron’s Lakers career numbers will end up. The Lakers have been very lucky to not only have Kobe put up incredible numbers year after year and outstanding consistent work ethic, but to now have LeBron seemingly playing like he’s still in his prime.
In LeBron’s first year with the Lakers, a groin injury had him facing something that made his drive that much more intense. He was thrown out of the ‘best player in the league’ talk, and that made him come back this season with a venomous fire that never stopped.
For someone to be in their 17th season and averaging monster numbers on such a consistent basis, it’s special. When people talk about LeBron James, they always mention Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, then start their debates about who’s the best. Oftentimes these GOAT debates make us forget to genuinely enjoy a player while they’re still in the league and playing at a high level. This 17th season performance by LeBron is a reminder that we should cherish the basketball we witness.