CLEVELAND — As Cavaliers star LeBron James continues to rack up numbers in another potential MVP season, the future Hall of Famer acknowledges he is playing for something more than just another individual trophy at this point in his career.
But when discussing the possibility of winning another MVP award in his 15th season prior to Saturday night’s 109-100 win over the Utah Jazz, James knew it would mean more to him now.
“Team success is always the No. 1, but along the way if you’re able accomplish some individual awards, individual achievements, it would mean a lot,” James said after Saturday’s shootaround. “I feel good. This is my 15th year, but this is one of the best years I’ve had as far as how I feel, and I want to continue that. I want to kind of try to break the mold for the next generation. So just take the narrative out of, ‘OK, you’re past your prime when you get [to] 31, or you’re past your prime in your 12th year in the league, or whatever the case may be.’
“Hopefully I can break the mold, so when the next guy comes, he can still get $200 or $300 million and be 33 years old. I’m serious. You guys are laughing, I’m serious. This is the mold I’m trying to break. It’s not just about me, it’s for the next crew, as well … I’ll be 33 in 15 days. This is my 15th season, and this is the best I’ve felt in my career. I want it all.”
With his 60th career triple-double Saturday (29 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists), James passed Boston Celtics great Larry Bird for sixth all time. The Cavs star was asked if he really believed a player would come along and be as dominant as he has been in Year 15.
“As dominant as me?” James said with a smile before pausing.
“We’ll see. We’ll see. Listen, I want to break the mold of guys, of the stereotype of this prime thing. I know what I’m doing has not been done a lot in the history of the game, even at my age. And you look at the minutes I’ve played and the consecutive Finals I’ve been a part of, just the toll on my body, it hasn’t been done. So hopefully if there’s a kid [who] can make a huge impact in this league, and it could be 10 years, 12 years, 15 years, whatever. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to start my journey a lot earlier. Who knows? The [NBA draft eligibility] rule could change. We’ve been talking obviously with the NCAA to to see if the rule could change and high school kids are able to come back into the league early. We’ll see.
“But I’ve been fortunate to do some great things.”
James has recorded a triple-double in three of his last four games and has five on the season overall. The Cavs, meanwhile, have now won 17 of their last 18 games.
Coach Tyronn Lue, who earned his 100th career win Saturday, knows it’s unlikely another player of James’ caliber comes along any time soon.
“There’s not going to be a lot of other guys as good as LeBron James,” Lue said before the Jazz game. “But what he’s doing at his age, his 15th year, is unbelievable. But it’s a tribute to him [for] taking care of his body, doing all the right things, eating healthy, stretching, getting his treatment, and then putting the work in. I think as he’s gotten older, he’s added that 3-point shot to his game the last couple years. And when he’s making that shot, it opens up everything else for him. So it’s just a tribute to him and what he does as a professional, taking care of himself, taking care of his body, working on his game.”
“I want to break the mold of guys, of the stereotype of this prime thing. I know what I’m doing has not been done a lot in the history of the game, even at my age. And you look at the minutes I’ve played and the consecutive Finals I’ve been a part of, just the toll on my body, it hasn’t been done.”Cleveland Cavaliers’ star LeBron James
Kevin Love said James’ recent performance is not comparable to anything the league has seen.
“It’s tough to [compare],” Love said. “Knowing the history of the game, in their 15th year, I don’t know if anybody’s gone about it like this and dominated night in and night out and done it so effectively and so efficiently. It’s tough to really put into words what he’s able to do on a nightly basis. This is my fourth year playing with him, but as far as what I’ve seen out of him, especially this year, this is the best I’ve seen for sure.”
James is trying to take his latest step toward basketball immortality in stride. He knows he is doing things the league never has seen, and he appreciates the names he is getting past in a career that ultimately will end in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“It’s not even when I pass them. It’s more when I’m just mentioned in the same breath as them,” James said of moving by Bird on the triple-doubles list. “Since it comes up [and people] say, ‘You’ve done this or you passed this guy, you tied this guy, legends that’s played the game.’ I’m a historian of the game. I know who set the standards for this league. I understand who set the standard for me to be here, who traveled the road long before I got here to make it possible for myself, so it’s just humbling any time I’m mentioned with any of the greats.”