On Tuesday I saw the news that Dwyane Wade was offered a $25 million contract to play basketball in China.
That’s always a sure sign that a veteran has gone well past his peak when a lesser sports league wants you as much for your drawing power as your playing power.
That brought strongly to mind something that should have already been obvious, but I guess I have been in denial: the amazing Class of 2003 is getting old.
It’s hard for me to imagine it since by the time these guys came along I had already married, had a kid and gotten separated. They were just kids to me, and in a sense they should always seem like kids to me, but Father Time catches up to all of us.
In fact, Old Man Time already caught up with several members of the Class of ‘03, but they weren’t the big stars, so we weren’t paying attention. Some of the former all-stars of this class who have already retired include Josh Howard, Mo Williams and Chris Kaman. Other long-time NBA veterans from this class now gone include Kirk Hinrich, Luke Ridnour, Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa, Michael Pietrus and current Lakers head coach Luke Walton.
Kyle Korver is 37 years old. D-Wade is 36 years old. Carmelo Anthony is now 34 years old.
Chris Bosh is 34 and hasn’t played in two years, but he still wants to come back and give it a try. Unfortunately he’s on blood thinners to prevent another life-threatening blood clot, so doctors won’t clear him to play.
LeBron James was the baby of the bunch because he jumped straight from high school to the NBA.
And ever since he’s been in the league, LeBron has been a tank, never missing a single season and never missing more than a quarter of any games in 15 years.
LeBron James the player has been remarkable, but LeBron’s Cal Ripken-like playing streak is just as remarkable.
Consider this, LeBron is 33 years old and just signed an enormous new contract with the Lakers. And yet, he’s already played more career games than just about every player in league history.
He has played in 1,143 games in the regular season, good for 58th place. However, he also goes deep into the playoffs every year, adding another 239 to his count. If those games were added to his total, he would be in 14th place.
A lot of people like to compare how King James’ career will finish as compared to Michael Jordan’s career, but the younger man has already played nearly a full season’s worth more than his Airness did.
Jordan played in 1,072 regular-season games and 179 playoff games. That’s 71 fewer in the regular season and 40 less in the postseason — thanks to a foot injury in his second year and his baseball career that cost him almost two full seasons.
Now for those of you who remember what MJ was like in his last season, think back to his knee issues — draining fluid off the joint from time to time, sitting on the bench with ice packs on both knees if the team had a team put away in the fourth quarter.
How in the world is LeBron still running and jumping the way he is after all these games?
Sportswriter Bill Simmons wrote an article a few years back about how 7-footers don’t hold up well once they hit the 800-game mark. He was talking about Kevin Garnett with the Celtics in the present, but he used several examples from the past. LeBron is 6-foot-8, so he is only a few inches shy of being in that category, and yet he’s held up as well as any guard.
It’s no wonder that Magic Johnson said he had a long conversation with LeBron about changing the makeup of his teammates as he joins the Lakers. L.A. can let someone else pound the ball off the dribble more and let LeBron spot up for shots or post up smaller men so that he doesn’t have to exert so much effort every night.
This past season LeBron led all players in total minutes played. That’s right. A 33-year-old veteran put in more minutes than any 20-year-old still trying to gain experience with heavy minutes.
Remember that he is 58th in career games played? Well he’s already 20th in total minutes on the floor. He’s played more minutes than such Hall of Famers as Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal and Bill Russell and is almost caught up with Robert Parish who played until he qualified for AARP.
That’s not including the massive workload he’s logged in the playoffs. Add in those minutes played, and he is neck and neck with Karl Malone for second place all time behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Yeah, I think it’s time he cut back the work.
• Of course, if he’s now played more minutes than Michael Jordan, then maybe we shouldn’t be talking about how much more LeBron can accomplish with more years. He’s already had more playoff runs than Jordan and more trips to the Finals.
Why not go ahead and compare their careers right now?
Both men have 14 all-star appearances. Jordan won the MVP award five times and James four — and both were likely deserving in other years, but voters felt like giving someone else a shot. Jordan was named MVP of the Finals all six times he reached that level. King James has three Finals MVP awards.
Both have great stats when it comes to attacking the basket and shooting free throws. Both are only so-so at shooting from long range.
When it comes to some of the advanced sabremetrics, Jordan is neck and neck with Chris Paul for first place all-time in win shares per minute played. LeBron is in fourth place. In the categories of box plus/minus and value over replacement player, LeBron is first and Jordan second. And LeBron already has career win shares of 219.4 to Jordan’s 214.
So those are some pretty even stats — except for titles.
Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.