The quick answer is: Lebron James has been playing in the NBA for 20 seasons!
It’s incredibly hard to make it to any professional sport’s league, but getting to the top is only half the battle. Players have to stay there too. That’s why most NBA athletes only stick around for a couple of years, and why most drop out rather quickly. It takes a special talent to stay put.
It is that longevity that separates Lebron James from the pack. The King has had one of the longest careers of any NBA athlete. This guide looks at how his persistence, as well as his raw talent and unmatched drive, allowed him to stay on top for so long.
A Short Lived Career
On average, NBA players don’t stay in the league that long. Less than 5,000 players have ever gotten all the way to the big show, and most of those only stuck around a few seasons. In fact, the average NBA career only lasts about 4.5 years.
That number shows, while a few athletes have been lucky enough to play in the league for a long time, most of them don’t have what it takes to stay at the top. It’s a matter of skill, discipline, and luck.
Not only that, but even great players tend to drop off dramatically after a certain point. Everyone hits a wall eventually. Pushing that wall as far back as possible is what separates flashes in the pan and the perennial greats. It’s also what helped Lebron reach such great heights.
Lasting Longer Than Most
Lebron has had one of the longest and most illustrious careers in NBA history. He’s been around for nineteen long seasons, and while he has slowed down in his old age, he’s undoubtedly been one of the best players in the league during that entire time.
Throughout his long career, Lebron has put together a series of incredible achievements. He has four NBA championships, been to ten finals, took home four MVP awards, earned four Finals MVP awards, and won two Olympic gold medals. He’s an eighteen-time all-star as well.
All of that gives him one of the most impressive resumes of any player. What makes it even better is that, unlike other players who hit their peak early and then fade away, Lebron kept it going from the beginning of his career all the way until the end.
Still Strong, Still Good
In order to fully appreciate and break down Lebron’s career, it’s first important to analyze why his longevity is different from so many other athletes. Looking at other long time players, most only stick around as a bench player or to share minutes. They aren’t crucial to the team.
In contrast, Lebron continues to be a force. While he doesn’t play as much as he once did, he has still managed to score more than 25 points a game, dish out more than six assists, and grab more than seven rebounds a game over the last three seasons.
Not only that, but he was the leader during the Lakers’ championship run back in 2020 at the age of 35. He’s not just sticking around in order to be on a list or to put up more stats, he’s sticking around to try and push his team to be the best that they can be.
That’s a true rarity for any player with twenty or more years in the league.
A Class of His Peers
Twenty years in the NBA is an impressive mark for Lebron because it puts him into an extremely exclusive group. Only ten players have ever reached that mark, with even less getting to twenty-one. It’s unlikely anyone else will join it anytime soon, either.
Looking at the list, nobody has ever played in more seasons than Vince Carter. The Raptors legend played for 22 years. That’s the most of all time, but it’s not entirely out of reach either. There is still time for other people to catch him if they so choose.
Beyond him, the others on the list are Kareem Adbul-Jabbar, Robert Parish, Kevin Willis, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Jamal Crawford, and Udonis Haslem.
While Lebron is already in the twenty-season club, there’s no doubt that the competitive all-star has his eyes on Carter’s record. That’s not to say he’s going to make it to twenty-three, but he’s certainly going to try. Especially if his stats and body continue to hold up.
Lebron is an outlier in many ways, and one of the biggest is his longevity. He’s not only played a long time, but he’s also played at an extended high level in a league where very few athletes last for more than a few seasons. He’s beaten all the odds and continues to do so each season.