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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

What The Hell Are We Going To Do When LeBron James Retires?

Illustration for article titled What The Hell Are We Going To Do When LeBron James Retires?
Photo: Steve Dykes (AP)

LeBron James played a perfect basketball game last night. Leading an injury-depleted squad that can’t play defense against the best team in the Eastern Conference, LeBron scored 35 points on 11-of-19 shooting, handed out 17 assists, grabbed seven rebounds, and didn’t turn the ball over once. The Cavs won the game, 132-129.


There is currently an abundance of supremely talented NBA players capable of producing chuckle-inducing box scores, but nobody crafts one quite like LeBron does. We’ve been over this before, but what continues to separate James from his superhuman peers is the consistency and excellence with which he does everything. Nobody can get to the rim with Russell Westbrook’s ferocity, except for LeBron James. Nobody can break down a defender with James Harden’s clinical cruelty, except for LeBron James. Nobody can outfox and overpower low-post defenders like Joel Embiid, except for LeBron James. Nobody can pass the ball with Chris Paul’s purpose and precision, except for LeBron James. Nobody can erase a shot like Anthony Davis, except for LeBron James. Nobody has Steph Curry’s range, except for (okay, maybe only occasionally) LeBron James. You get the idea.

All of this was on display against the Raptors. LeBron, like he does almost every single night, soared through the game as his team’s best scorer, playmaker, and big man—always adjusting to whatever the situation called for.

You want great post-up play?

You want fearless shotmaking?

You want an unstoppable isolation and a big dunk?

You want a genius-level pass that wins a game?

If none of these plays seem all that remarkable to you—I don’t think any of them will be making LeBron’s career highlight reel after he retires—then maybe it’s because you’ve gotten used to the fact that he’s been doing this, constantly, for 15 seasons. That much sustained greatness can dull the senses, but every now and then it’s worth stepping back and appreciating the scope of the situation. For 15 goddamn years LeBron James has been playing basketball better than anyone else in the world, and the ability to watch him do that is always available to us.

On any given night you can decide that you want to watch one of the best basketball players ever play some of the best basketball ever, and LeBron is there to scratch that itch. Last week, you could have watched him unleash one of the most beautiful and violent dunks you’ll ever see. A few days later, you could have watched him go for 40-12-10 against the Bucks. He’s just there, on TV, doing that, all the time. It’s neat.

When I think about LeBron in this way I start to wonder why any of us do anything during the NBA season besides watch him play basketball. And then I start to think about how terrible it’s going to be once he finally starts to deteriorate and eventually retires. What am I supposed to do then? Watch Ben Simmons? An impostor. Watch James Harden? Like eating vegetables that taste kind of good. Watch Anthony Davis? He’s not my real dad.


LeBron’s eventually going to leave and nobody will be able to replace him and it’s going to suck. This is my simple plea to you: take in as much of him as possible, while you still can.