The reverence for the longevity of Lakers forward LeBron James only continues to grow as the 38-year-old’s illustrious career stretches into its third decade. Now poised to enter his 21st NBA season, 19-time All-Star is still making members of his own organization feel like it’s first day stepping into the league.
Speaking to reporters during a press conference ahead of the start of training camp, Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka expressed how impressed he was by James’s meticulous dedication to getting himself prepared for another year in Los Angeles.
“It’s staggering for a player who has 20 years under the hood already and is preparing for 21 like he’s a rookie,” Pelinka said. “He’s been doing 6 a.m. workouts. Probably been in our building as much as any player this offseason. Been in the weight room as much as any player. Any team LeBron’s played for, it’s been pretty uniform that his work sets the tone.
“There has been nothing but an increase in seeing that here. To me, it’s let’s be about it, let’s not talk about it. He’s definitely been about it this offseason.”
It’s that same mentality that has allowed James, who will turn 39 later this year, to maintain his status among the the NBA’s elite as the seasons pile on. Though he saw his usage decrease slightly (from 37.2 minutes per game in 2021–22 to 35.5 in 2022–23), the four-time champion still managed to average 28.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists, while shooting 50% from the floor, to power the Lakers to a Western Conference Finals appearance.
Injuries have loomed as a concern for James, who missed 27 games last season with a foot injury and has missed 111 games over the last five years. However, the Lakers aren’t worried about the league’s all-time leading scorer getting himself ready for the grind of a full season, more so recognizing the need for others to step up and help shoulder the load.
“Bron, he does a great job taking care of himself,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “The team that’s around him now, the pieces that we have in place, those guys are going to step up and do a lot of heavy lifting early.”