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The Quest to Maintain Superstar Status: Will LeBron Finally Crumble?

Teo Choi

LeBron James poses after beating Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time scored points record.

At age 38, there has been much speculation regarding LeBron James’ expected performances in this upcoming season. However, it can be guaranteed that being the oldest person in the NBA will not stop James from putting up the superstar numbers he has been doing for the past 20 seasons. Having aged like fine wine, season 21 should be a breeze.

Born to a 16 year old single mother, LeBron’s life has not always been smooth sailing. With an absent father, it was his basketball coach who would take him under his wing as he pursued both football and basketball. With a strong support system behind him, James was able to excel and gain national recognition, in both sports. Eventually opting for basketball, James was drafted as the #1 pick in the 2003 NBA draft. Despite hardships such as having to miss school or constantly having to move from place to place, he has consistently shown grit and a strong work ethic. Even with the crushing expectations brought upon him as an 18-year-old rookie, he was able to live up to the hype consistently and has solidified himself on the “Basketball Mt. Rushmore”, even debatably being the greatest ever to do it.

First, we can look at the statistics part of the equation. Throughout his 20 NBA seasons, LeBron James has averaged a staggering 27.2 ppg (points per game), 7.5 rpg (rebounds per game), 7.3 apg (assists per game), 1.5 spg (steals per game), and 0.8 bpg (blocks per game). By being able to excel at multiple different things, LeBron can make a profound impact on all aspects of the game. In fact, he is the all-time leader in points scored, fourth in all-time assists, and ninth in steals as a forward. The easiest way to speculate the statistics he will be able to put up this upcoming season is by looking at last season’s stats. Last season, LeBron averaged a whopping 28.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 6.8 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.6 bpg. One could argue that he was chasing the coveted scoring record, but that does not discredit the amazing impact he had in the games. For a larger sample size, we can look at his Lakers tenure. In five years, he averaged 27.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 8.0 apg, 1.2 spg, and 0.7 bpg, enough to push him to all-star captain selections all five years. All these stats become evidence of Lebron’s incredible stats and their immediate success, including the past few years. In fact, compared to his stats two years ago, his last season’s stats increased in every single category except for ppg and defensive metrics.

Second, we can look at the team put around him this season. It can be said that this year’s team is far superior to most of his past teams, even the roster when he won the championship with the Lakers in 2020. With great trade acquisitions over the trade deadline last season, the Lakers were able to make a late playoff run to the Western Conference Finals, where they would get swept by the Nuggets. Players such as Rui Hachimura, D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, and Mo Bamba. This offseason, the Lakers organization made great moves. Despite losing key players such as Dennis Schoder or Lonnie Walker IV, they were able to add great additions such as Gabe Vincent (3yr $33 Million), Christian Wood (2yr $5.7 Million), Taurean Prince (1yr $4.5 Million), Jaxson Hayes (2yr $4.6 Million), and Cam Reddish (2yr 4.6 Million) through the free agent market, draft Jalen Hood-Schfino (17th pick) and Maxwell Lewis (40th pick), and sign non-guaranteed contracts such as Colin Castleton, Alex Fudge, and D’Moi Hodge. In fact, the Lakers got so much better that according to sports network Hoops Hype, the Lakers now have the 4th highest power ranking. What does this mean for LeBron? It means less need for minutes and more laid-back basketball. Last year, LeBron logged on 35.5 minutes per game, much more than a 38-year-old should be playing. However, with this new team, one can expect LeBron to average a little bit fewer points, but more assists and rebounds, and more defensive stats like steals and blocks.

Third, we can look at the off-the-court aspect of the equation. This is regarding the work ethic, the Mamba Mentality aspect, and the work he puts into his body and craft. According to some independent sources, LeBron James spends an average annual sum of $1.5 million on his body. This includes the trainers, home gyms, chefs, massage therapists, and, of course, the super cool ice chambers he goes in. The effort he puts into his craft is also unreplaceable. In the news conference ahead of training camp, Darvin Ham, the Lakers’ head coach said in an interview "He [LeBron James] does a great job taking care of himself,". As a 38-year-old, health is of the utmost importance, and being able to take care of himself cannot be discredited. In that same interview, Rob Pelinka, the Lakers’ General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations, said "It's staggering for a player who has 20 years under the hood already and is preparing for 21 like he's a rookie," and "There has been nothing but an increase in seeing that [Putting work in] here. To me, it's let's be about it, let's not talk about it. He's definitely been about it this offseason.". In the facilities, behind all the paparazzi and media, Ham and Pelinka can see the arduous efforts LeBron undertakes. In an interview with ESPN, a newcomer for the Lakers Christian Wood stated "First person I see is LeBron James. Already in a full sweat ... He already beat me to it.". Christian Wood, who, as a newcomer, wanted to impress and prove his worth, went early in the morning to practice. However, it was, of course, LeBron, being the diligent person he is, already putting his shots up. As such, his work ethic, on and off the court can be credited for his amazing performance on the hardwood.

However, there are some uncertainties that may challenge this equation. There is the possibility of injury. So far, we have discussed that skill wise, there should not be a problem with him replicating the stats from last year. But injuries could be the Achilles heel. Last season, LeBron had a torn foot tendon that sidelined him for 27 games. He also missed 26 and 27 games the two seasons before that, respectively. Hopefully, this season brings good news, and the new additions should help him ease off a little.

Finally, it would only be right to predict LeBron’s stats for this upcoming season. Because of his help in fire power, I would expect a decrease in points but an increase in assists. Rebounds should stay the same and the defensive metrics may dwindle a tiny bit. Overall, I would assume a statline of 24~26 ppg, 7~8 rpg, 7~9 apg, and around a steal and 0.75 bpg. Obviously, this all depends on injuries and strategies put forward by the Lakers, but I speculate this would be the ballpark of his stats. These stats will not only maintain LeBron’s status as a superstar but will solidify himself as a top ten player in the league at 38 years old and at season 21.


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