Los Angeles Lakers star forward LeBron James knows his legendary career doesn't have many years left, but he understands that it will take a mental commitment for him to keep going as he gets older.
After Wednesday's loss to the Miami Heat, James spoke with reporters about how long he intends to continue playing and he revealed what it will take to keep him around.
"I don't have a number," he said. "I know as long as my mind stays in it, I can play at this level for a minute. Now, that's up to my mind. My body is going to be OK because if my mind is into it, I will make sure my body is taken care of, and I'll continue to put in the work."
James, who will turn 38 years old on Friday, added that it's important to him to be playing meaningful basketball for however long his career continues.
"I'm a winner, and I want to win. And I want to win and give myself a chance to win and still compete for championships," he said, later adding, "I know it takes steps to get there, but once you get there & know how to get there, playing basketball at this level just to be playing basketball is not in my DNA. It's not in my DNA anymore. ... We'll see what happens and see how fresh my mind stays over the next couple years."
James' comments come at an interesting time, as Wednesday's 112-98 loss to Miami was Los Angeles' fifth loss in its last six games to drop its record to 14-21. The Lakers have not looked like a title contender this year and are depleted without star big man Anthony Davis, who is sidelined indefinitely with a foot injury.
In his 20th season, James is still playing at a high level with averages of 27.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.6 assists. He reportedly expressed privately his desire to play until he's 45 years old, which is not out of the question if his body holds up.
However, it remains to be seen where James' career will continue if Los Angeles can't build a contender around him. He has said in the past that he hopes to play on the same team as his sons if they qualify for the NBA, so that could be another determining factor for the final chapters of his legendary story.