April 21, 2024

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LeBron James turns 38 and says his top priority is ‘winning’

LeBron James turns 38 and says his top priority is ‘winning’

MIAMI – Back in the arena where he played the best basketball of his career, LeBron James He was asked to look into the future instead of going back into the past and share how long he plans to play in the NBA.

“I don’t have a number,” James said Wednesday after the Los Angeles Lakers lost 112-98 to his former team, the Miami Heat, when asked how many seasons he had left. “I know as long as my mind stays in it, I can play at that level for a minute. Now, it’s up to my mind. My body will be fine because if my mind is in it, I’ll make sure the body is taken care of and I’ll keep working.”

It was another individually strong night for the 20-year-old veteran, as he led the Lakers in points (27), rebounds (9) and assists (6). But Los Angeles lost for the ninth time in its past 13 games, falling to 14-21 on the season and putting the Lakers 13th out of 15 teams in the Western Conference.

While James said his mental approach will ultimately determine how much time he has left after the two years, $97 million left in his Lakers contract (with a sophomore player option), that approach is closely tied to team performance.

Winning, James reckons, seems to be the real wellspring of youth.

“I’m a winner and I want to win,” said James. And I want to win and give myself a chance to win and still compete for championships. That’s always been my passion, and that’s always been my goal since I got into the league as an 18-year-old kid from Akron, Ohio.

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“And I know it takes steps to get there, but once you get there and you know how to get there, playing basketball at that level just to play basketball isn’t in my DNA. It’s not in my DNA anymore. So, we’re “I’ll see what happens and see how fresh my brain stays for the next couple of years.”

James’ time with the Lakers was the toughest of any of the three franchises he played for. In Cleveland, he won Rookie of the Year, two MVPs, made five trips to the NBA Finals and won two championships and the Finals MVP. In Miami, there were two overtimes, four trips to the Finals, two championships, and a Finals MVP final.

A member of the purple and gold, he became the first player in league history to win Finals MVP honors with three different teams, and earned the honor of beating the Lakers over the Heat in the 2020 Finals in Florida, but also missed the playoffs twice and experienced the only playoff loss of his career .

Not to mention the Lakers’ struggles this season.

While the topic of James’ longevity naturally came up as his 38th birthday approached on Friday, his decision to answer the question the way he did could have been an attempt to put pressure on the Lakers front office to make a deal to offer more. competitive list.

Since then the Lakers are a big man preaching Anthony Davis Sidelined with a strain injury in his right foot nearly two weeks ago, James has made cryptic comments about L.A.’s predicament — whether he’s praising the building of the Sacramento Kings roster around its stars in Domantas Sabonis And the Daron Fox Or ask rhetorically after a Christmas Day loss to the Dallas Mavericks, “How many times are you going to try to throw yourselves away [of a losing hole] So you get dirty a lot? “

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Lakers vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka announced at the team’s annual media day in September that it would be his duty to build a competitive team around James.

“Let me be absolutely clear: We have one of the great players in LeBron James to ever play the game, and we’ve committed to a long-term contract, a three-year contract. So of course, we’ll do whatever we can. He can, including picks, make deals to give us A chance to help LeBron get to the end,” Pelinka said. “He’s committed to our organization. This has to be a bilateral commitment, and it’s there.”

James reinvented the concept of how long a player’s workout is supposed to last in the league. This season, two decades into his career, his average of 27.8 points per game is ninth in the NBA, and his 35.8 minutes per game is nineteenth.

“He’s a fierce, fierce competitor,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said after the loss in Miami. “Team, we’ve got our ups and downs at the moment. We’re on the wrong side of the win-lose column. So, he’s not going to let himself get out of the mix. A job like I’ve ever seen him make himself available and be able to physically produce at a very high level.”

In a recent interview with German journalist Maximilian Haupt, James’ teammate, Dennis Schroeder – speaking in his native language – said the Lakers star who told him he hoped to play seven more years, until he was 45.

Perhaps this number was not taken out of the blue. James has always been a fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tom Bradywho is still currently playing in the NFL at the age of 45 and won his record seventh Super Bowl at the age of 43.

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Schroeder told ESPN that he hopes James will reach that goal because “the NBA needs him,” and because how special it would be for James to have the opportunity to play in the league with one or both of his children.

James said, with a sad tone in his voice, that he had a lot of things hanging on his mind as he prepared to blow out the candles on his birthday cake this year.

“I think about how long I’m going to play,” James said. “I’m thinking I don’t want to end my career playing at this level in a team aspect. I will still be able to compete for trophies because I know what I can still bring to a club with the right pieces of football.

“I’m thinking about my son graduating high school soon, going to college and still playing. My youngest son will be a little one next year—how much time will I miss him. So over the course of the day, to the weeks, to the months, I think about a little bit of everything. You know?”