It’s near impossible to have an honest conversation about the NBAs GOAT without including Lebron James. His basketball career and overall resume say he belongs in that conversation. But like all of the greats that came before him and the greats that have yet to come, there will come a time when King James has to leave his throne. Has that time arrived?


By the Numbers

When Lebron entered the league (2003) at the age of 18, he was already a man among boys. In his very first season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he averaged almost 21 PPG while also accounting for 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. At the end of this his 18th season in the NBA, these numbers remain the lowest of his career by far.

Over his 18 seasons, James has been a 4 time NBA champion (2012, 2013, 2016, 2020), claiming NBA Finals MVP honors in all four of those championship series. He has also been named NBA Most Valuable Player (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013) on four occasions. The list of basketball and personal honors this 17 time NBA All-Star has collected over the years certainly puts him on par with any other player that might be included in the GOAT conversation.


Public Life

Perhaps more so than other NBA players of his caliber, James has allowed himself to get immersed in public opinion. Many times, he has been considered a cultural icon and exerted great influence over young people throughout the world. At the same time, he has never been one to shy away from making controversial stands and statements.

As a regular member on the annual Time (magazine) list as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, he has for the most part carried himself well. Amazingly, he never let his involvement in social issues and controversy interfere with what he does on the basketball court. On the hardwood, he has always been a fierce competitor.

It would be irresponsible to not mention what James has accomplished as an activist and philanthropist. Aside from his very own LeBron James Family Foundation, he has been an avid supporter of nonprofit organizations that seek to improve the plight of disadvantaged children all over the world. In his hometown of Akron, Ohio, he has often been viewed as a top leader in the community.


The Twilight of His Career

At the of 36, James is still quite a physical specimen. There are rumors that his exercise and eating regimens are unlike that of any other superstar athlete. Keeping in mind that he has forever been a target of physical abuse by other players trying to keep him away from the basket, it’s stunning to note that before the 2018–19 season, his first with the Los Angeles Lakers, James played less than 75 games only twice in his first 15 years.

With that said, he has certainly had his struggles over the last three years. During the 2018-19 season, he missed 27 games due to a significant groin injury, the first major injury of his career. He did rebound in the COVID shortened 2019-20, yet only managed to hit the court on 45 occasions during the just-completed 2020-21 season. This was due in large part to the kind of nagging injuries NBA players incur when the motor starts running out of gas.



At the Crossroads

After winning his fourth NBA Championship in 2019-20 with the Lakers, there were high hopes that he and fellow superstar Anthony Davis could lead the Lakers to the second of back-to-back championships. Unfortunately, the team suffered through an entire season of turmoil due to player issues and injuries to both him and Davis. For the first time in his career, a Lebron James-led team failed to make it out of the first round of the NBA playoffs.

On July 9, 2018, James kept the Lebron career going when he signed a 4 year deal with the Lakers for $153 million. He followed that up with an $85 million 2 year extension that keeps him in a Lakers uniform until the end of the 2024-25 season. If he makes it to the end of his contract, he would be 40 years old and a 22 year veteran of the NBA.



Is It The End of The Road For LeBron?

In the eyes of many experts, James looks tired. He doesn’t seem to have the same drive that made him the great player he has always been. Make no mistake about it, the numbers are still there. During the 2020-21 season, he averaged 25 PPG and almost 8 rebounds and assists per game. The problem is he doesn’t look like the King on the court anymore.

A mortal man would call it quits. Lebron James is not a mortal man. Yes, he has received every accolade and award a basketball player can receive, minus an NCAA Championship (skipped college to enter NBA). Yes, he has all the money a man could want. When his basketball career does come to an end, he will be a busy man running a flourishing business empire.

Mounting nagging injuries, team turmoil, and an incredibly busy lifestyle all say it’s time to retire and bring the Lebron career to a gracious end. However, James is a proud man, and there is still one bridge that James has yet to cross.

King James currently sits third on the all-time NBA scoring list with 35,367. That leaves him 1,561 points behind Karl Malone and 3,020 points behind the immortal Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Both of these numbers are quite obtainable if James were to want to keep lacing up his sneakers through the end of his contract. The ball is in your court, King James.