LeBron James is doing what most athletes cannot: staring Father Time right in the eyes.
On December 30th, 1984 in Akron, Ohio, LeBron James was brought into the world. 36 years later and he is one of the most talented and accomplished basketball players that we have ever seen.
James is currently 36 years of age and has been in the NBA for the past 18 seasons. Throughout his lengthy career in the league, James has won four championships with three different franchises.
Along with this, he has won the Most Valuable Player award four times, Finals MVP four times, Rookie of the Year, 16 consecutive All-Star game appearances, three All-Star game MVP’s, 16 All-NBA selections, and 5 appearances on the NBA All-Defensive team.
Along with this, it is likely that James will retire with the first place title of career points. He will also retire with the most assists from a nonguard in NBA history. Lastly, he will likely finish his career ranked top 25 in rebounds.
With LeBron still seemingly being in the final stages of his prime, it raises the question if he is the greatest 36-year-old to ever play in the NBA. There are a few players in NBA history who had seasons at the age of 36 that could stack up to what LeBron is projected.
Those players being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and Tim Duncan. Basketball-Reference is projecting that LeBron will finish this season with 26.0 points, 9.4 assists, 8.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 0.6 blocks per game. These will be the stats we will be compared to the other 36-year-old legends that came before LeBron.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was 36 in the 1983-1984 season. This year, he averaged 21.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.7 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game. Going off of LeBron’s projection, he will have a better year than Abdul-Jabbar did in terms of points, rebounds, and assists.
If James is able to average substantially more in all three major statistical categories, it will be no doubt that he is better at 36 than Kareem.
The next player is Kobe Bryant. Bryant was 36 in the 2014-2015 season. This year, he averaged 22.3 points, 5.6 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 0.2 blocks per game. Based on the projection for James, he will crush Bryant in terms of points, assists, and rebounds. He also narrowly edges Kobe in blocks. However, Bryant will have a substantially higher amount of steals than James.
If James can stick to his projection, he will have a much better season at 36 years old than Bryant did.
The final player that had a 36-year-old season in which they averaged over 20 points was Karl Malone. Malone was 36 in the 1999-2000 season. In this year, Malone averaged 25.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.0 steal, and 0.9 blocks per game.
James will narrowly beat Malone in points and steals. He is projected to expectedly have many more assists than Malone. However, Malone will have a higher rebound per game number and slightly edge LeBron out in blocks.
If James is able to meet the expectations that were set for him by Basketball-Reference, he will be the best 36-year-old player to ever take the court. Along with this, it will be incredible to see someone of his age almost average a triple-double.
So far this season, LeBron James is averaging much less than he was projected, however, with plenty of season left to play there is more than enough time for LeBron to make up for lost time.