Alright folks, apologies for the delay(s)(s)(s). We're here. We made it. Everyone huddle together and let's get this over with.
2. LeBron James
Let’s have one last round of applause for LeBron’s incredible eight-year run atop the Trade Value list.
[gif of the stadium groundskeeper from Rudy applauding after Rudy gets into the game]
That's what applause looks like! Simmons is so corny and stupid he can't even properly emulate Buzzfeed. Gifs added to writing like this are supposed to be reaction gifs, not just gifs that say the same thing the words do. THAT AWKWARD MOMENT WHEN LEBRON FALLS OUT OF THE TOP SPOT IN THE TRADE VALUE RANKINGS!
What happens next? The 30-year-old budding mogul has already logged more than 42,000 career minutes and played more than 1,050 games (including playoffs).
I get that basketball will eventually wear down the human knees (and ankles, hips, wrists, etc.) but let's not obsess over minute or game counts. LeBron has played 35,000 regular season minutes. Plenty of guards have cleared 45,000 for their careers.
You know what that really means?
IN TEN YEARS WHEN WE LOOK BACK ON LEBRON PASSING THE 42,000 MINUTE MARKER, HOW WILL WE REMEMBER IT?
Apex LeBron is gone. Here, look.
Seasons 1 through 4 (316 games)
41.3 mpg, 26.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 6.4 apg, 46-33-73%, 8.3 FTA, 3.3 TO, 24.2 PER, .181 WS/48
Seasons 5 through 11 (526 games)
38.4 mpg, 28.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 7.1 apg, 52-35-76%, 8.7 FTA, 3.3 TO, 30.1 PER, .283 WS/48
Ah, the always crucial (and very telling) "first four seasons as compared to next seven seasons" splits.
Playoff Career (158 games)
42.5 mpg, 28.0 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 6.4 apg, 48-33-76%, 9.7 FTA, 3.4 TO, 27.7 PER, .242 WS/48
Season 12 (57 games)
36.2 mpg, 26.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 7.4 apg, 49-35-72%, 8.0 FTA, 4.2 TO, 26.2 PER, .196 WS/48.
So, cool: he's on a new team, with new teammates, and his PER and win shares are down a bit. He's mostly shooting the same as he did during his "apex years" (SEASONS 5 THROUGH 11 WHO SAYS NO) and scoring and dishing at basically the same rates. He's turning the ball over a little more, and rebounding less. That can probably be written off as a result of moving from a team with Wade and Bosh to a team with Kyrie, suddenly mediocre Kevin Love, and Mozgov (to soak up boards).
The good news: He’s still 85-90 percent as good as that seven-year apex,
NO, EXACTLY 87.5%
keeping LeBron’s “best player in the league” ceiling the highest of anyone. I just don’t know where this goes. How long can LeBron stay great or even close to great?
He's 30. Let's use our brain noodles and say "Well, on average, most great players stay great at least until they're 35 or so. Therefore, LeBron can probably stay great until he's 35 or so."
In NBA history, only 35 guys have played more than 875 games and logged more than 34,000 minutes while averaging 35 minutes per game in their first 13 seasons. (Even though LeBron did it in 12, I added an extra year for everyone else because, you know, LeBron is superhuman.) Only 22 guys played more than 120 playoff games in their first 13 seasons while logging more than 5,000 playoff minutes and averaging 35 minutes per game. And only 12 guys cracked both lists: LeBron, Jordan, Wilt, Duncan, Russell, West, Bird, Pippen, Kobe, Hakeem, Malone and Havlicek.
And this goes to show (fart noise).
Wait a second … that’s a great list!
Oh my gosh he's becoming self-aware! He also still refuses to be edited!
We just ripped off 12 of the 25 best players ever. Just so I can sleep tonight, let’s include Dirk, Magic, Shaq, and Kareem as well, giving us 16 guys who passed 40,000 minutes (regular season and playoffs combined) in 13 years or less. That’s an insane day-to-day burden for anyone’s body, no matter how great you are.
And now we're going in circles, chasing our tails (classic Klosterman writing technique, by the way) and we're probably going to end up concluding that LeBron is an all-time great, so he'll probably age like other all-time greats.
You’re talking about three-plus presidential terms of grinding out 80-100 games in eight to nine months (and carrying a huge burden, no less).
Thank you for expressing that length of time in a way that the political nerds who don't follow sports can grasp.
After passing that benchmark, Kobe (four more first-team All-NBAs and a Finals MVP), Havlicek (second-team All-NBA and a ’76 Finals win), Duncan (two more Finals), Malone (1999’s MVP and two top-15 years after that), Shaq (first-team All-NBA and one more title in his 14th season), Dirk (third-team All-NBA in 2012, relevant even now) and Kareem (who doesn’t count because he was an alien) thrived for at least a little while. Nobody else did.
OK, so 7 of your arbitrarily chosen 16 players continued to be effective. Cool. I'm not even going to look up the post-40,000 minute stats of the other 9 guys, because I'm sure some of them achieved something significant past that point and Bill is just omitting them to prove his thesis of (fart nose).
But 50,000 combined minutes? That’s the danger number. Kareem passed 50,000 during the 1983-84 season, won the 1985 Finals MVP and remained relevant through ’88 (back-to-back titles), but again, he wasn’t human. Duncan passed that mark last season, then helped San Antonio win 2014’s title. (Of course, he’s also an alien.)
So, Duncan and Kareem don't count for this exercise because they don't count for this exercise. But LeBron won't be like them because he's not like them, or presumably not like them, even though you only really know if you're like those guys until you get to where they were in terms of minutes. This is the level of analysis usually provided by a drunk guy watching TV alone at a sports bar at 2 PM on a weekday. We are learning nothing, other than "playing pro sports tends to get harder as you get older, although certain players decline more suddenly than other players." Which is pretty much (fart noise).
No non-center remained a star after 50,000 minutes except for Kobe; he passed that mark during the 2012 playoffs, then thrived offensively the following season right until his Achilles snapped in half. These things don’t end well. I think Kobe knew it too. That last season, he could feel his body breaking down and turned into Quint from Jaws:
He grew a mustache and started hunting sharks. Totally agreed. Flawless analogy.
He started revving his boat’s engine until smoke began pouring out.
Ah yes, so "turning into Quint from Jaws" means "doing this one thing that that character did for like 30 seconds in a 3 hour movie." Even when he's making pop culture references, i.e. doing the one thing he should be best at doing, he's fucking atrocious.
He knew. He had to know.
Awesome writing. Since you have so much access these days, Mr. Big Shot, why don't you just go ask Kobe to his face? Better yet, ask him if he knew it after the 6 for 24 game in 2010.
Here’s the point: History says LeBron has two elite seasons left after this one, maybe three. That’s it. And you wondered why he didn’t want to wait around for Andrew Wiggins.
No one wondered that. Literally no one. A lot of people questioned that trade a couple months into the season, when Wiggins showed himself to be NBA-capable already and Love wasn't playing well, but when the Cavs made that trade, literally no one on earth who knows what a basketball looks like said "WHOA! WHY DID THE CAVS JUST DO THAT? IS LEBRON OUT OF HIS MIND?"
On the other hand … LeBron is only 30 years old. That’s the same age as Scarlett Johansson, Matt Cain, Mandy Moore, Adam Morrison, Katy Perry, Rick Nash and Purple Rain.
So glad you consulted the Wikipedia page for 1984 before writing this. Really brings it home to the reader.
When Bird turned 30, he was the reigning back-to-back-to-back MVP. When Jordan turned 30, he was four months away from finishing off his first three-peat. When Magic turned 30, he was getting ready for his third MVP season in four years. Doesn’t it seem insane to think that LeBron is passing his prime at THIRTY? Then again, only Kobe crossed 40,000 minutes before turning 31, but it happened over 13 years (not 12 like LeBron), and he didn’t take nearly the same physical night-to-night pounding. So who the heck knows?
Jesus fucking Christ on a fucking tightrope. What did I tell you Bill was going to do here? What did I JUST say was going to be the outcome of all of this? I hate writing this blog.
Either LeBron will make history, or history will catch up to him. It’s one or the other.
FASCINATING. Go fuck yourself with a ice pick, Simmons. You suck.
Just know that he’s no longer our most untradable player. For the first time, you can see a finish line for LeBron James. Unlike …
1. Anthony Davis
So, LeBron is almost certainly going to opt out of his current deal this summer and grab a new one (regardless of the Cavs playoff outcome). But Davis can enter free agency in the summer of 2016. I hate to indulge Bill's stupid rules for this stupid exercise, but since we've made it all the way to #1, I will just this once. If back in January, the Cavs called the Pelicans and offered LeBron, with confirmation that LeBron wanted that trade to happen for whatever reason (i.e., he was just as excited about playing in New Orleans as he presumably is playing in Cleveland now, and would be just as likely to sign long term either this summer or next summer), you don't think the Pelicans would take that trade? I don't know, they're a young-ish team, but they're not THAT young. Other than Davis their best players (Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson) are all in their mid 20s. To an extent, they're built to win now. I dunno. Food for thought. I hate myself for spending 90 seconds typing this. As Bill would say, let's just move on.
In 2007’s Trade Value column, I wrote that “2007 LeBron and 2007 [Dwight] Howard are more untradeable than anyone in the seven-year history of this ‘Trade Value’ column,
WHO SAID NO?
even surpassing (gulp) 2001 Shaq and 2003 Duncan.”
This whole goddamn thing is so dumb. He's like a little kid playing with Legos and making a Lego town and then arguing with no one about who in Legotown has the best house. It's simpleminded mental masturbation. The fact that this guy's book sold a jillion copies is a fantastic indication of how goddamn pathetic America is.
Eight years later, you’d have to belatedly cram 2015 Davis into that sentence while crossing your fingers nice and hard.
OH GOD BE SURE TO CROSS YOUR FINGERS! WHAT IF YOU'RE WRONG?
No reason at all, fuckface.
Look what happened to the 2007 guys. LeBron has become a four-time MVP, a two-time champ and one of the best 10 players ever. Dwight has made only one Finals and never won an MVP, and started breaking down four years later.
It's like we just learned: sometimes, players age well and sometimes, they don't. Awesome.
You never know.
It's one or the other. You never know. What do you want, real analysis? Skilled writing? A writer who isn't a self-obsessed prick? Don't be greedy.
It’s 50-50 once a young star reaches anything-is-possible status.
You need injury luck, you need the right situation, and you need the player to want it. For every Shaq, there’s a Dwight. For every Magic, there’s a Penny. For every Kareem, there’s a Walton. For every Duncan, there’s a C-Webb. For every Kobe, there’s a Derrick Rose.
I'm probably not going to make it to the end of this, just FYI. I'm actually getting upset while writing a blog post that like 50 people will read and for which I won't be paid a cent. This is not fun.
So cross your fingers for the Brow. Nice and hard.
I'm not a Pelicans fan. I'm not a Kentucky fan. I like Davis just fine. But if he did end up like Dwight (or Penny or Walton or whoever), it would matter about as much to me as whether my shit tomorrow morning was pleasant or uncomfortable. Life in the NBA will move on. It always does. I hate it when people (especially sportswriters, the worst people on earth) try to make everyone think they should feel bad because an athlete didn't achieve his maximum potential. (See: Rose's injury struggles, Westbrook's team being too shitty to play in the postseason this year, etc.) GO FUCK YOURSELVES.
He just turned 22 years old and hasn’t even played 6,500 career minutes yet.
WHY, HE COULD BE AN ALIEN AT SOME POINT IF HE KEEPS THIS UP!
He’s the best screen-and-roller since Young Robinson. Longer arms than McHale. Freakocious athlete like Hakeem. Light on his feet like Young Duncan. Drains 20-footers like Bosh. Protects the paint like KG. I don’t know what else you’d want. Jordan (24 years old at the time), LeBron (24), T-Mac (23) and Davis (right now) are the only under-25 players to post PERs over 30. He’s also one of three under-25 guys (along with ’90 Robinson and ’74 Bob McAdoo) to average 24 and 10 with 2.5 blocks and 1.0 steals. And if he came along 35 years ago, he’d probably be a senior at Kentucky right now.
Haha, now, that last point is actually pretty awesome to think about. Jesus. I mean, the level of play all across NCAAB would increase, especially at its upper ranks, if nearly all players stayed for four years. But still: imagine 2014-15 Anthony Davis playing in the SEC. That would be hilarious.
And look, I don’t know how this will play out.
YOU NEVER KNOW. IT'S ONE OR THE OTHER. 50-50. BUY THE BOOK OF BASKETBALL TODAY ON AMAZON.
But I have been attending NBA games since the 1973-74 season, back when my father carried me as a tiny 4-year-old into Boston Garden and hoped that I would fall in love with the sport. I did.
Boy, I guess you're just as qualified to speculate about unpredictable bullshit as the rest of us then! Please continue!
Over the next 41 years (and counting), I watched maybe 25 up-and-coming stars who just seemed different from everyone else. Young Durant was all arms and legs, and he weighed about 20 pounds, but he had that crazy release and you just knew something unforgettable would happen with him. Young Hakeem and Young Robinson were Greek gods; they moved at a different speed, and with a different level of coordination, than anyone I had ever seen. Young Duncan had those beautiful feet; he just glided effortlessly wherever he wanted to go.
So, your point is that you have watched great players that everyone knows were great and almost everyone agreed were great at the time be great.
Young MJ was indescribable; I’m not even going to betray the experience by cramming it into one sentence.
I'm pretty tempted to end the experience of reading any more of these sentences by running in front of a moving tow truck.
Young Kobe and Young Penny looked like MJ and Magic had cloned themselves just for kicks. Young Shaq was unfair around the basket; you couldn’t keep him away from the rim unless you had a two-by-four. Young Barkley was a bowling ball crossed with a runaway train. Young C-Webb looked like a combination of everything you’d ever liked about every power forward you’d ever liked. Young LeBron looked and played like he was 28 already; he’s the surest thing I have ever seen, a true prodigy in every sense.
So, your point is STILL that you have watched great players that everyone knows were great and almost everyone agreed were great at the time be great.
So that’s the first stage: the old Gladwell Blink test,
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA there are like 200 more words in this article but I'm going to end it right here. I think that's a great stopping point for us on this brutally painful journey. How can you tell if Anthony Davis is good? Well, first read 250 pages of nothingness by some asshole pop scientist whose ideas are about as original as Bill's. That's stage one.
I hate Bill Simmons.