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    NBA: LeBron James, inexhaustible at 35, MVP again? | NBA 2019

    Even among the best players in the NBA. In his 17th seasons, James still enters the pools to the MVP.


    Lebron James, before the Clippers, last Christmas.
    ROBYN BECKAFP

    No one can be blamed if he thought thatLebron JamesIt was mortal. There were finally reasons. In his first season with Los Angeles Lakers, he suffered the most ‘serious’ injury of his career, a problem in the groin that took him a month off. A world for someone who in 15 years was never more than two weeks unemployed. LeBron stayed out of the playoffs for the first time since 2005 whileGiannis Antetokounmpodominated the regular phase orKawhi LeonardThe best nine-month cameo ever seen was crowned with the ring. A change of guard was expected in the NBA, not seeing LeBron turn 35 in the pools to the MVP.

    It can be debated if Antetokounmpo orAnthony Davis, his own partner, are ahead, but not that LeBron is being one of the most decisive players of the season. James shares focus with Davis as he had only done in his first year withDwyane Wadein Miami but from that role, more director than ever (always was, after all) and more committed in defense of what he had been in recent years, is one of the great reasons that explain the overwhelming start of the Lakers.

    57,000 minutes

    LeBron maintains his pulse over time. He is already the third player with more minutes in history (57,405 between regular phase and playoffs), stepping on the heels ofKareem Abdul-JabbarYKarl Malone. Only this year has left behindKobe Bryant, Tim DuncanYDirk Nowitzki. Precisely the 17th was Kobe’s last great campaign, although it ended with the Achilles tendon broken. Duncan and Nowitzki followed a more natural evolution: at that point they were still valuable, but they had moved to a secondary level in the league. The unheard of James, and the list is already long, is that it is still on the super satellite.

    Precisely Malone and Jabbar are two good examples of enduring stars. Malone was the most veteran MVP at 35 and Jabbar, although his top had passed, would still give him to be MVP of a Finals with 37. Jordan, of course, won his last ring at 35, although he had 14,000 minutes less in the legs. The equivalent of four complete campaigns, including playoffs and Finals.

    James always had a supernatural physique, but in addition every season he invests a million euros in recovering it and setting it up. Cryotherapy, cooks, biomechanics and even a special forces soldier. In addition, staying out of the playoffs and quitting the World Cup in Beijing (he has not played with the team since London 2012, although he intends to return to Tokyo 2020) granted him six months of respite after eight consecutive years reaching the Finals.

    Ring aspirant

    It all adds up. Also to know candidate in a much more open West after the serious injury (and subsequent departure) ofKevin Durant. Last year the urgency of LeBron did not fit in a team too young. Its presence accelerates the times of any franchise, because it brings the ring closer than any other star. Hence, it forced the arrival of Anthony Davis, although along the way he crossed several boundaries and alienated a locker room that was known as market meat.

    ‘The Eyebrow’ is the most complete interior of the NBA, a very good scorer who at the same time is able to act as an anchor in defense of a team that knows how to assert its size. James has bought his new coach’s defensive plan,Frank Vogel, and shows a commitment back that I had not had in the regular season for a long time. With Davis, LeBron James has perhaps found the best partner he has had in his career. Good enough to aim for the title and, more importantly at age 35, share the focus.

    LeBron, the director

    LeBron is the fourth highest scorer in history, but that is not its essence nor is it as it likes to define itself. James is first and foremost a game generator. And this season, which plays without a ‘base’ by its side, is more evident. The Lakers attack is born in their hands.

    For the first time since the NBA collects tracking data (2013), LeBron James is the player with the most balls in the league: 96 per game. Only four players have reached those figures in these seven seasons, none for three years. The ball never spent so much time on his hands (7.7 minutes on average). The relevant thing is what he does with it.

    James leads the NBA with 10.8 assists per game, but the data that best denotes his duties is the ratio: LeBron assists 51.2% of the baskets his team scores when it is on the floor. Only six players have achieved something like this:John stockton(7 times),Steve Nash(4),Chris Paul(3),Rajon Rondo, Russell WestbrookYJames harden(one). Companies say everything.

    LeBron promised to turn Anthony Davis into the main focus of the Lakers attack and, although he is still the player with the most offensive use of the team (31.3%), since there are records he had never connected so much with a teammate as with him: No one had gotten so many balls (16.7 times a night) and only with Kyrie Irving had he done so often (25.1% of his passes). On Davis’s adaptation, it is enough to say that he is one of his biggest rivals to the MVP and the Lakers, the team with the second best balance in the league (26-7).

    Last season LeBron was aware of his own ‘mortality’. He suffered the most serious injury of his career and was out of the playoffs for the first time since 2005. Naturally, that point marked the beginning of the downhill, but James turns 35 even among the best.

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