If there’s one thing we as fans have learned watching sports, it’s that Father Time is undefeated. While some have been able to stay ahead of him, age will always catch up to the athlete. LeBron James is one of those athletes that is seemingly outrunning Father Time, at least for the moment.
This postseason, James is proving he’s still an incredible talent at 38 years old, averaging 23.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. However, the Los Angeles Lakers are on the verge of being swept by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals after three heartbreaking losses to open the series.
The Lakers lost Game 1 by six points, Game 2 by five points, and Game 3 by 11 points. Not horrible losses by any means, but the Nuggets have put themselves in the perfect position to make the NBA Finals. No team has ever come back 3-0, so it looks like Denver has booked their trip to the last dance. In the past three games, James averaged 23.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 10.3 assists. While those stats are impressive, this is not the LeBron James we’re so used to seeing in the playoffs. 23.7 points is down from his regular season average of 28.9, and despite the rebounds and assists being very high, his offensive presence is not what it used to be.
Defensively, The King had two blocks and four steals in Game 2 and has three total blocks in the series. The takeaway from those numbers? It seems like James is using more energy on defense, which limits his offensive production.
While his numbers have definitely sparked conversation, Game 2 specifically sent NBA Twitter into a frenzy, blowing multiple layup/dunk attempts. Late in the game, he had the ball stripped and then botched yet another layup attempt which all but sealed the deal for Denver. If the Lakers want to pull off the impossible, James has to focus on his scoring.
Jamal Murray has been switched onto him for many possessions this series, and that’s where James needs to use a bully ball strategy and take advantage of the mismatch. More often than not, he’ll pass up the shot and look to shooters on the wings, which isn’t the wrong decision, but he can take over this series if his body lets him.
That being said, while many including myself still believe that James can still produce high-scoring numbers, we can’t help but wonder, is Father Time finally catching up to LeBron James? We never thought age could catch up to Jordan, until he came back and played his final NBA stint with the Wizards, putting up pedestrian numbers.
The short (and perhaps temporary) answer? I think James’ age is finally starting to show, barring any sort of historic 3-0 comeback (again, it has NEVER happened before). His athleticism is still as impressive as it was five years ago, but we can’t ignore the decline in points.
James can certainly prove me wrong in these next few games, but it seems like we’ve been eagerly waiting for the 40-point triple-double, yet another all-time performance so that we can all say, “That’s my GOAT!” but it hasn’t come yet, at least not in this series. In fact, he’s had one 30-point game this entire postseason. What was most impressive was the 20-rebound game James had in the first round.
How do fans respond to something we thought we would never see? Realistically, did you ever think LeBron James would “decline?” This guy has been doing otherworldly things since 2003, all the way to 2023. Time was infinite when LeBron James would step onto the court, but the idea is creeping in: we know his days in the NBA are limited.
Learn to appreciate greatness for what it is, whether that comes in the form of a 50-point triple-double in the NBA Finals, or a 20-20 game as underdogs in the first round. Yes, Father Time is starting to catch up to LeBron James, but that’s okay. Appreciate The King while you still can, and who knows, maybe he still has a ring or two left in the tank.