X

Is LeBron James the Most Durable Player in the NBA?

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2012

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 21:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat takes the court during player introductions against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Five of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 21, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

LeBron James has gotten no shortage of praise for his talent and versatility. We all know by now that he's pretty good.

But, have you noticed that he's also invincible?

Not in the sense that he can effortlessly vanquish his foes, but in the sense that he's never, ever injured. If James isn't the league's most durable player, he's awfully close to it. Over the course of his first nine seasons, he's missed just 32 regular-season games.

That averages out to just 3.6 games a season.

But for the occasional cramps, injuries have been few and far between for James. He suffered a minor finger injury in March, and that's more or less a typical season for this guy.

Sort of surprising given how hard he plays on a nightly basis. Based on his penchant for slashing to the hoop alone, you'd expect to see a few more bumps and bruises. He doesn't get to the free-throw line eight times a game by accident.

He doesn't stay off the injured list by accident either.

James' training regimen has long blended the most up-to-date techniques and plenty of muscle-building (if it weren't already obvious just from looking at that man).

He's also been careful not to put on too much weight, maintaining the kind of agility needed to avoid those pesky strains that plague most careers. As much as he's done to constantly improve his game, James has also worked tirelessly to remain become an ever more impressive physical specimen.

To his credit, he also plays intelligently.

When's the last time you saw LeBron flying to the basket out of control or making a move without carefully and deliberately surveying the landscape? James' patience is a virtue, and it's ensured he avoids unnecessary collisions, lands carefully and keeps impact on his body to a minimum.

Put together, the three-time MVP is especially valuable on account of the fact that you can count on him being in the lineup.

And you can count on him being in that lineup for about 40 minutes–he's averaged 39.9 for his career. He's admitted that bodying up with big guys in the post can take its toll, and he made some noise about playing too many minutes.

You could have forgiven him for being a bit fatigued in the NBA Finals, at least if he was ever actually fatigued. That wasn't the case according to one of his teammates (via NBA.com's Steve Aschburner):

"I can't tell," Heat forward Udonis Haslem said. "In my mind, I think he's the most well-conditioned athlete in the world, so I never think he needs a blow. I haven't seen [fatigue] with my own eyes. He eats right, keeps himself in great shape, takes care of his body. He's been an ironman for us all season."

The Oklahoma City Thunder couldn't tell either, especially not when James was racking up a triple-double in Game 5 of those NBA Finals.

James had led the league in postseason minutes, and he'd spent a number of those minutes filling in for Chris Bosh at the power forward position. If anything were going to wear this guy down, those playoffs would have been it.

Surprise, surprise–they didn't.

The 27-year-old looked as fresh as ever.

The Miami Heat have a supporting cast tainted by injury risks, but they have at least one constant ensuring they'll remain a contender year in and year out.