A Decade of Dominance: 10…that’s the number of years LeBron James has played in the NBA. It’s hard to believe, because it seems like just the other day we were still in awe watching astounding highlight tapes of a kid out of St. Mary’s high school in Akron, OH. Nevertheless, King James has enjoyed all the riches, spoils, and rewards a King could desire during this decade (aside from a few struggles along the way). But what about the next 10 years?
At 28-years-old, LeBron James is already in the prime of his career. Which is crazy considering he’s been making headlines and highlight reels since 2003. With this year’s NBA Playoffs right around the corner, so too is the Next chapter of LeBron’ career. But before we gaze into the NBA’ crystal basketball to see LeBron’s future, here’s a rundown of his reign as King:
Taking the Throne: LeBron’s Career Achievements, Awards, and Statistics:
2003-2004 NBA Rookie of the Year
2003-2004 NBA All-Rookie First team
Nine time NBA All-Star (2005-2013)
Two time NBA All-Star Game MVP (2006, 2008)
Two time All-NBA Second Team (2005, 2007)
Six time All-NBA First Team (2006, 2008-2013)
2008 NBA Scoring Champion
Four time All-NBA Defensive Team (2009-2012)
Three time MVP Award Winner (2009, 2010, 2012)
Three time Olympic Medalist (2004 Bronze Athens, 2008 Gold Beijing, 2012 Gold London)
2012 NBA Finals MVP
2012 NBA Finals Champion
One of eight NBA players to Win three MVP awards
One of eight NBA players to score 2,000 points or more in seven consecutive seasons
One of four NBA players to average at least 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists in their rookie year. (Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Tyreke Evans)
One of five NBA players to average over 25 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists per game in a season (five times) (Oscar Robertson achieved it six times, John Havlicek twice, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan)
One of three NBA players to average at least 30 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists in a single season. (Oscar Robertson achieved it five times, and Michael Jordan)
One of two NBA players to average at least 27 points, six rebounds, and six assists for six consecutive seasons. (Behind only Oscar Robertson who had eight consecutive seasons)
One of three NBA players to average at least 30 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists in a post-season series. (the other two are Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird)
Only NBA player to average 26 points, six rebounds, and six assists for their career
Only NBA player to post at least 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists, and 100 steals in four consecutive seasons
Only NBA player to score 30 or more points while also shooting 60 percent from the field in six consecutive games
And that’s just some of the achievements, there’s over two-dozen other achievements I left out to save space for this post.
Stats: (Career Stats as of April 12th, 2013)
Points: 21, 037 (32nd on the NBA All-Time scoring list) Rebounds: 5,540 Assists: 5,287 (46th on the all-time list) Blocks: 649 Steals: 1,322 Double-Doubles: 255 Triple-Doubles: 36
Post-season: Points: 3,275 (16th on the all-time post-season list) Rebounds: 998 (44th on the all-time post-season list) Assists: 772 (22nd on the all-time post-season list) Blocks: 109 (53rd on the all-time post-season list) Steals: 195 (22nd on the all-time post-season list) Games: 115 (80th on the all-time post-season list) Double-Doubles: 48 Triple Doubles: 8
A King is Crowned: Last year LeBron James and the Miami Heat claimed the 2012 NBA Finals Championship and appear to be poised to win this year’s NBA Finals. Which would give King James another jewel to add to his crown, so to speak. This brings us back to the beginning of this post. With the beginning of this year’s NBA Playoffs, LeBron will put pen to paper (more specifically the rock to the rim) and write what will be the first pages of the next chapter in his already storied career.
So, what does the future hold for LeBron? The Answer: It’s entirely up to James himself.
While teammates Dwayne Wade (31) and Chris Bosh (29) are a tad older than LeBron and may call it a career earlier than he will (likely due to injury or age), this Big Three should remain intact for at least another 5 years. However, James could opt out of his contract with Miami after the 2014 season. Meaning he could make another big “Decision” via free agency.
Which could spark more than a few what if scenarios around league front offices, as in “what if we had LeBron?”. An even bigger question…what if King James returned to his old castle in Cleveland?
Imagine for a moment James playing with star point guard Kyrie Irving, and a talented power forward in Tristan Thompson. Throw in a couple of other free agents/role players and you’ve got a Cleveland team that could go the distance. Granted, it’s unlikely team owner Dan Gilbert would even consider allowing LeBron back, but the idea is stimulating enough.
Then there’s the more realistic route, which is James re-signing with Miami to finish out his career in South Beach. James could then be a key cog in continuing to build the franchise into a Dynasty if all were to go well. Even after Wade and Bosh leave, James could sway other top players to bring their talents to South Beach until he too retires.
Everlasting Empire?: LeBron James has certainly changed the landscape of the NBA in more ways than one in his 10 seasons thus far, and he will continue to re-construct it for years to come. Which leads to one final question…where will James rank among the greatest NBA players of all-time when it is all said and done? The Answer: The sky is truly the limit for LeBron.
Here’s a projected finish should LeBron play another 10 seasons based solely on his career averages:
(stats based on James’ career averages over the next 10 years in which he would play 800 more games, 80 games a season, without any major injuries.)
Points: 43,117 (finishing 1st overall surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’ 38,387)
Rebounds: 11,380 (finishing at 26th all-time just outside the top 25 behind Elgin Baylor’ 11,463)
Assists: 10,887 (finishing 3rd all-time behind Jason Kidd 12,079 and John Stockton 15,806)
Blocks: 1,149 (finishing well within the top 50 at 36th all-time)
Steals: 2,682 (finishing 2nd all-time past Jason Kidd’ 2,679 and under John Stockton’ 3,265)
Based on those regular season career projected stats, LeBron would likely finish at or towards the top of nearly every statistical category in post-season career stats. As far as the number of championships goes, like the post-season itself neither playoff spot nor NBA Finals trophy is promised to any NBA team.
However, consider this interesting stat: Michael Jordan won his 1st of six NBA championships when he was…28 years old. Meaning LeBron may just be getting started on his ring collection also.
Final Thoughts: Hypothetically speaking James has a chance to end up with insane career numbers when he walks away from the game. However, realistic thinking tells us that James will eventually not be the same King James at some point down the line, and as a result his career numbers will see a steady decline until his NBA days are done.
Nevertheless, James can continue to play at a competitive level for at least the next 5 seasons and can likely bring home some more hardware (MVP awards, NBA Finals trophies/rings, etc.) in that time-frame. Past that, only time will tell how long the King will watch over his throne. Until then we can only watch, wait, and debate.