Last summer, it appeared LeBron James might have to be content with three championship rings. He was 34, well past the prime for most NBA players, and was coming off the most serious injury of his career. He was also sitting out the playoffs for the first time since the 2004/05 season.
Everything looks different now, of course. LeBron and the Lakers tore through the competition in Orlando, being pushed past five games only by the Heat. James averaged 29.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 8.5 assists during the Finals and became the second-oldest player ever to win Finals MVP honors.
A fourth championship ring enhances his place in history and gives him a chance to join even more elite company. Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Tim Duncan are among the players with five. Michael Jordan, whom James is frequently compared to, has six, as do Scottie Pippen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bob Cousy.
The Lakers look capable of winning multiple titles. Anthony Davis turned out to be a perfect complement for James and may be at the peak of his career at age 27. The rest of the roster is a mix of youth and veterans who all fit well into their prescribed roles. Avery Bradley, who opted out of the restart, seems likely to return next season, adding another strong defensive presence to the backcourt.
The biggest wild card is how long James can remain at an elite level. He averaged 34.6 minutes per game this season, which is the lowest of his career, but not by much. James led the league in assists for the first time at 10.2 per game, while adding 25.3 points and 7.8 rebounds. Remarkably, his production per 36 minutes has barely changed from a decade ago.
James is under contract for one more season and holds a $41MM player option for 2021/22. There’s no certainty beyond that, but he hasn’t even hinted at retirement. The Lakers will try to maximize his title opportunities for as long as he’s on the roster and have shown a willingness to spend whatever is necessary.
We want to get your opinion. How many more titles do you believe James will win before retirement? Please leave your answers in the comment section.