The Lakers’ game on Friday was billed as a glimpse of the NBA’s future going up against a stalwart of both past and present. Pelicans star Zion Williamson, at age 20, brought some star power to Staples Center against LeBron James, a guy 16 years Williamson’s elder.
The two battled to a draw, though the Lakers got the blowout win. Williamson tallied 21 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, while James had 21 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists.
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It does seem improbable that James, even at his advanced age, has not seemed to lose a step. He was asked, in his postgame press conference, if there was anything he could do 10 years ago that he can’t do now and he at least made note that he won’t be playing in 2031:
Yeah but I wouldn’t tell you that. I continue to put myself in the best condition I can be in. I train my body, I train my mind every single day. I come into the arenas or the facility and I get in a lot of extra work, preparing my body, preparing my mind. Hopefully, I can continue to do what I am doing at 36 and see what happens. But I will tell you, I don’t think that I can go to 46. We can go from 26 to 36 but I don’t think I can go to 46. Also I don’t think my wife would like that, pretty much. She wouldn’t like that, either.
— Swish Cultures (@swishcultures_) January 16, 2021
LeBron James Has Not Missed a Game
The play that most stood out as James looking more 26 than 36 came late in the third quarter, after a missed layup from Kyle Kuzma. James came flying through the lane as the ball caromed off the rim, leapt over Pelicans forward Nicola Melli and notched a put-back dunk. That capped a decisive 15-0 run for the Lakers in the quarter.
Never lose sight of LeBron James 🔨
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 16, 2021
James is in his 18th season, and averaging 24.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists. He is shooting 38.2% from the 3-point line, which is his best percentage since 2012-13. While he has not taken any games off for rest, he has played just 31.8 minutes per game, which is a career low. In his career, he averaged 38.0 minutes per game.
While we now know he will not be playing at age 46, he has not given any indication that he is looking to slow down or retire. He signed a two-year contract extension in the offseason that will keep him around through the 2022-23 season, when he will be 38.
James Has Been Good-Natured About Aging
James has been good-natured about his advanced age, even as he continues to perform at a high level.
Last March, when James talked about hosting Darius Garland and Darius Bazely at his house in Los Angeles after the 2019 draft, James pointed out that it hit him that his new NBA colleagues had more in common with his sons than with him.
“When they would come over to the house, they would actually be outside playing basketball with Bryce and Bronny,” James told reporters. “Or playing video games with them. At first I was like [surprised] and then I had to realize those guys are 17-, 18-years old and my sons are 15 and 13. So, yeah, it made all the sense in the world.”