LeBron James' All-Star longevity? Young NBA stars have taken note

Friday morning before gray skies opened up and pounded downtown Indianapolis with wet snow, NBA commissioner Adam Silver stood on stage with the NBA’s next big star, Victor Wembanyama.

The two went through a rehearsed skit as the league unveiled NB-AI, an artificial intelligence application that could turn an NBA game into a Marvel movie with voice command.

It was the clip from the NBA’s annual tech summit that went viral, the kind of innovation from the future that is good for clicks even if it lacks any real practical use.

Later in the tech summit, in the last session of the day, a panel of players and medical professionals discussed the relationship between technology and preventative medical care.

In some ways, it’s the story of the weekend.

Sunday, LeBron James will play in his 20th All-Star Game, an NBA record. In the week leading up to the game, rumors about his potential free agency in the summer sparked tons of conversations not only because James is the NBA’s most recognizable star. It mattered because he’s still one of the league’s best players.

James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant all will play on the West team, with a combined 44 All-Star appearances and avatars for the medical advancements that are sure to extend player primes for the generation who played Friday in the Rising Stars tournament.

“I think basketball is all about what you can give to the game. And then once you’re done, it’s time to hang up the shoes,” Miami Heat rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. said. “I don’t know when that’s going to be for me, but you see Steph, LeBron, KD, those guys have so much more to show to the game and they show it every single night. They’re all at the top of their games, even at this late stage in their careers. It’s incredible and inspiring to see.”

In his 20th All-Star weekend, James stands alone. Seven of the Rising Stars participants were born after James’ NBA debut, including Utah Jazz rookie Keyonte George.

“It’s crazy. There’s a stat when we played him the first time that he was older than our coach,” George said Friday morning with a laugh. “… All the young guys coming into the league know who Bron is. To me, he’s the best that ever touched the basketball.”

George said a long career is his primary objective as a pro.

“The main goal coming into the league is, ‘How can I stay in it for as long as possible?’ Being a good teammate, with your play. The name of the game is longevity,” he said. “… I think the shot-making ability, not going to the rim all the time, get to their spots, pick them, play with a good pace. I think that helps with longevity and your body. And then it comes down to skill.”

Multiple players mentioned clips they’ve seen on social media of James working in the offseason have stuck with them as they became professionals, the possibility of multiple-decade careers.

“There are always clips, little tweets out there, about how much money he spends on it, how much time he spends on his body,” Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II said. “You’ve got to think about that and be focused. I’m 20 years old. And he’s in his 20th All-Star Game. Playing basketball for pretty much the entire time I’ve been alive. And just seeing how he’s been able to be this consistent through his career, you’ve got to be able to learn from it and take things from it.”

In the build to Sunday’s All-Star Game, James has been understated about the record.

“I don’t take it for granted, being an All-Star,” he said Tuesday in his final game before the All-Star break. “And the fact that I still get to represent this franchise. Well, one, my family, which is most important. My family name on the back of the jersey, that’s very important to me.

“And then when it comes to acknowledgment and accolades and things of that nature, it’s the fans that have been down with me for the last two decades plus. Anytime I’m able to have an accomplishment it means a lot to them as well. I try to do it for them because they’ve been along for this journey for so long so it’s pretty cool I’m still able to do it and do it at this level.”

If there’s an end, it’s not in plain sight.

“I think with LeBron, I think that’s him. I think he has a different mindset to the game that we play,” Charlotte Hornets rookie Brandon Miller said. “… I say keep going if you can keep going. I look at it as a great thing, just to see him in his 20th All-Star year and still be able to perform and be the best.”

James often has spoken about how he began the process of getting ready for his career at a young age, prioritizing stretching. Wembanyama, the center of attention Friday, has taken the same approach, adding things such as a prioritized sleep schedule to his wellness routine.

Equaling James’ production isn’t a lock for the NBA’s young stars. It is, at best, a severe improbability. But matching his durability and longevity? With the technology and data available to NBA players and their personal and team medical professionals, there’s a shot.

“How everything’s getting better in terms of knowledge, the body, treatment, stuff like this, I think we’re going to see more and more of those,” Wembanyama said of long careers. “Taking care of my body has long been one of my most important thoughts even for long term. But only the future will tell how the health is going to be. For sure, I’m trying to have no regrets about how I treat my body.”

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top