How long will the Lakers’ championship window really last with an aging LeBron James?

Robert Marvi
7 Min Read

Even though 2020 was a very difficult year for most people, it was a return to glory for the Los Angeles Lakers. After the worst period in team history, which included six straight seasons of missing the playoffs, the Purple and Gold won the NBA championship.

Even better, they strengthened their roster shortly afterward, addressing a few key weaknesses.

Now, 16 games into the 2020-21 NBA season, the Lakers have the league’s best record at 12-4, and many pundits agree that the Lakers are the favorites to win another world championship this summer.

“Barring an injury, I would be shocked if they don’t win the title, and I’m saying that before the season even starts,” said Fox Sports 1’s Nick Wright of the Lakers’ chances this season.

“I would put the Lakers in a tier of their own, above everyone else,” said ESPN’s Zach Lowe.

In fact, some are even saying the Lakers could keep winning beyond this season.

“I think the Lakers have a chance to three-peat,” said ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. “I think right now, as this season is presently constructed, it’s the Lakers and everyone else is a distant second.”

“I would say definitely the next year, potentially the next two years depending on LeBron’s [James] health, maybe three years,” said ESPN’s Jay Williams when asked how many more years the Lakers can be title favorites.

When it comes to the Lakers, winning one title is great, but the franchise’s standard is always winning multiple titles, if not having a dynasty.

It all begs the question: How long will the Lakers’ championship window last?

It Starts and Ends With King James

Right now, LeBron James is still the best basketball player in the world. He can seemingly do it all – handle the ball, hit the open man, score 25-30 points, rebound, be a vocal leader and even play some defense.

Even more than all that, he is the engine of the Lakers. They’re a fast-break team, and most of that is due to James pushing the pace and dictating the tempo.

The truly great players impact the game in ways that go way beyond stats. As James continues to age, his athleticism will continue to decline, but his ability to run a team, use his physicality to score in the paint and be an effective leader will still be there.

As long as James remains healthy and plays at an elite or near-elite level, the Lakers should at least have a puncher’s chance of winning it all.

After all, Anthony Davis is one of the five best players in the game and is under contract until at least 2024. Fourth-year man Kyle Kuzma is locked up until at least 2023. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has two additional years left on his contract, and new addition Dennis Schroder is likely going to get an extension on his contract.

Of course, James himself will be in the Purple and Gold for two more seasons after this one.

How Long Will LeBron Defy Father Time?

Of course, this is an inexact science, and James will have to continue to be lucky enough to avoid any major injuries.

But he is one of the two or three greatest physical specimens in NBA history, and he reportedly spends at least $1.5 million a year on maintaining his body, so it’s no mystery why he’s still the best in the world at age 36.

To try to answer the question of how much longer he’ll play at a high level, we can look at two other guys who were still elite at age 36: Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Like James, Malone also had the chiseled body of Adonis. He won his second and final MVP award at age 35, and even at age 37, he averaged 23.2 points a game.

Two seasons later, at age 39, the Mailman still managed to muster 20.6 points per game. When one looks at the fact that he was obsessive about his training and conditioning, it’s no wonder why.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Abdul-Jabbar was truly ahead of his time when it came to taking care of his body. He did yoga during a time when yoga was thought to only be for long-haired hippies, and he feels it’s a big reason why he never suffered any major injuries. He also swam and jumped rope to increase his endurance.

As a result, Abdul-Jabbar, like Malone, was still an elite player in his late 30s. The University of California, Los Angeles product won the NBA Finals MVP in 1985 at age 38 thanks to an all-around dominant performance against the Boston Celtics.

The following season, he averaged 23.4 points a game despite turning 39 years of age.

With James’ dedication to taking care of his body, not to mention the advances in medical science over the last few decades, it’s not a stretch to say he could play at an even higher level than Malone or Abdul-Jabbar when he becomes old enough to collect Social Security checks, at least in NBA terms.

After all, Tom Brady is still playing at a very high level and inching towards his seventh Super Bowl championship at the age of 43.

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Robert is a native of Santa Monica, Calif., and a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has been an avid NBA fan since he was a little kid in the mid '90s and fell in love with the Nick Van Exel-led Lakers teams. He truly cherishes the Kobe Bryant-era of Lakers basketball and the five world championships that came with it, and is looking forward to the team's next NBA title.