It is an interesting question, what is driving the Lakers’ star because, at age 36, LeBron James is doing things that no NBA player should be doing. Typically, a player’s “prime” year range from about 25-31, but even as James drives deeper into his 30s, his prime seems to be extending.
The L.A. Times had a look at what, exactly, is driving James’ longevity, and broke it into three parts: his ability to adjust his skills, his attention to his body, and his mental faculty for the game.
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But looking at James’ body of work drew some heavy praise from one of the guys who has been among James’ fiercest remaining rivals over the course of his career—coach Doc Rivers, who is now on the sidelines for Philadelphia.
Here is what Rivers had to say on James:
He does everything better than he did five or six years ago, which was supposed to be his prime. … You still have got to keep him out of the paint because his paint attacks create fouls, create other threes for other people and create easy twos. If you have to pick a poison, you still have to pick it. It’s just more poisonous.
Doc Rivers and LeBron James Have a Long History
Rivers coached the Celtics team in the late 2000s that, essentially, drove James out of Cleveland and on to Miami. Boston won the Eastern Conference in 2008 and 2010, eliminating James from the playoffs both years. James took his revenge in Miami, eliminating Rivers’ Celtics in 2011 and 2012.
Rivers discussed his annoyance over James and the Heat in 2010, when Miami held a mini pep-rally following the signing of James and Chris Bosh, despite having not yet won anything of significance.
Rivers was coaching the Celtics in Boston for James’ iconic Game 6 performance in the 2012 East finals, when James saved Miami from elimination by scoring 45 points with 15 rebounds.
Rivers was also the coach of the Clippers last season, when the two L.A. teams appeared to be forging a rivalry that was bound for the Western Conference finals. But the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead against the Nuggets and the conference showdown never took place. Rivers left the Clippers after the season.
Doc Rivers on LeBron: ‘There’s No One in the League With His Brain’
He has, thus, had an up-close view of James’ development as a player, from the shaky young guy in his first Cleveland stint to a player who gained a steely edge during his time in Miami.
But even in Los Angeles, James is playing at an absurdly high level. He is averaging 25.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.8 assists, making a career-high 41.0% from the 3-point line.
About a year ago, Rivers gave a strong endorsement of James’ mental game, saying, “There’s a lot of people in the league with LeBron’s body. There’s no one in the league with his brain.”
But Rivers said this year that James’ mental capacity has gotten even more impressive.
“He’s obviously smarter. He’s just so at peace with his game,” Rivers said. “I think that’s what I see more than anything.”