How LeBron James' 10th Season Will Stack Up Against Those of Other NBA Greats
Like a can-he-continue-his-quest-to-become-one-of-the-greatest-players-of-all-time type of sky-high.
Let's take a look at how some of the best players in NBA history performed in their 10th seasons and compare them to what LeBron will likely do this upcoming season.
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It's somewhat unfair to compare what Michael Jordan did in his 10th season with what LeBron could potentially do in his, considering Jordan only appeared in 17 games due to playing minor league baseball for the majority of the NBA season.
But because Jordan is the player LeBron is striving to become an equal with, we have to compare the two. So, let's cheat a little and take a look at MJ's 11th season instead.
In the 1995-96 season Jordan returned to dominant form, averaging 30.4 points on 49.5 percent shooting, 6.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.2 steals and finishing with a terrific 29.4 PER.
He won the regular-season MVP award and also led the Bulls to a record 72 regular-season wins and another championship, the fourth of his career (also his fourth Finals MVP award).
Except for points and steals, expect LeBron to top MJ in each of the aforementioned statistical categories, including PER, where he should be able to top the elusive 30.00 mark (only eight players, including James and Jordan, have ever done it).
But the ultimate factor in deciding whether LeBron's 10th season will be looked at as equal or better than Jordan's 1995-96 season is if James can lead the Heat to another title. Considering how outstanding James is and how he has an improved supporting cast, plan on him doing so.
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An in-his-prime Kobe Bryant had arguably the most impressive season of his career in 2005-06.
With an atrocious supporting cast that included Smush Parker and Kwame Brown, Bryant somehow willed the Lakers to 45 wins. In the process, he averaged a career-high 35.4 points on 45.0 percent shooting, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.8 steals and finished with a career-best PER of 28.11.
Bryant was named to the All-Defensive First Team, and although he didn't win the NBA's regular-season MVP award, a strong case can be made that he deserved the honor over Steve Nash.
Despite the fact that he won't even come close to matching Bryant's PPG averages from his 10th season, James should have a better all-around season.
He should shoot at least around 7.5 percent better than Bryant from the field, which is pretty incredible when you consider how dominant Bryant was offensively in '05-06. And James will, as he has done throughout his career, perform markedly better than Bryant in the rebound and assist categories.
Also, and this can't be overlooked when examining his 10th season, Bryant infamously refused to shoot the ball during the second half of the Lakers' Game 7 loss to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs.
Considering how mature of a player he is at this point, LeBron pulling something like that now seems unfathomable.
And good news for Heat fans: That maturity is why you should expect LeBron to have a laser-like focus on winning another title this year.
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En route to his second regular-season MVP award, Magic Johnson was simply terrific throughout the 1988-89 season.
He averaged 22.5 points on 50.9 percent shooting from the field and 91.1 percent from the line, 7.8 rebounds, an outstanding 12.8 assists, 1.8 steals and finished with a 26.9 PER.
Johnson led the Lakers to the Finals with the opportunity to win a third consecutive championship and personally his sixth. But, unfortunately for them, he was injured early in the series and the Lakers were swept.
As for LeBron, although he's an incredible passer, he will never have the opportunity to near Magic's assist totals.
Also, considering free-throw shooting (77.1 percent in 2011-12) can be considered one of his few weaknesses, that's another area where LeBron will fall way short of Magic.
However, expect LBJ to top him in points, FG percentage, PER, and finish very similarly in steals and rebounds, as well as also at least matching Magic's trip to the Finals.
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Larry Bird entered his 10th season in a completely different state of his career than LeBron will when he soon enters his.
Bird started the season at age 32, no longer in his prime, and with a body beginning to break down for good. He only played in six games in 1988-89 until he underwent major surgery on both of his heels.
See, LeBron is still in the midst of his prime at age 27, and his body has shown no signs it will break down anytime soon. In last year's shortened season, which led to more day-to-day injuries and more rest needed around the league, LeBron missed only four games and finished sixth in the NBA in minutes per game.
LeBron is simply a physical freak, so even when he does enter the latter stages of his career it would still be a surprise for him to miss many games. But now, it shouldn't even be a concern.
Expect LeBron to play his usual 75-80 games and continue his ascension of the list of all-time greats.