All great athletes have an expiry date.
Muhammad Ali broke the hearts of millions as he was retired by his corner in his 1980 heavyweight bout with Larry Holmes.
Usain Bolt pulled up in agony on the home straight of the 4x100m in 2017 in what was to be his final competitive race.
Serena Williams, without a Grand Slam since 2017, continues to fall short of matching Margaret Court’s 24 major titles.
After failing to make it past the first round of the play-offs for the first time in his career, has Father Time finally caught up with the great LeBron James?
His Los Angeles Lakers side were beaten 113-100 by the Phoenix Suns last week as they succumbed to a 4-2 series defeat, and for the first time in his 18-year association with the NBA, injuries have slowed the 36-year-old down during this latest campaign.
James, otherwise known as ‘The King’ is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. In fact, that sentence doesn’t do his time in the NBA justice. Depending on who you ask, it is a straight shootout between James and Michael Jordan as to who is the greatest basketball player of all time.
With four NBA Championship titles to his name, with three different teams, ‘L-Train’ has reached the play-offs a total of 15 times during his 18 seasons in the franchise.
He began his love affair with the NBA finals with back-to-back titles with Miami Heat in the 2012 and 2013 campaigns.
He returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the side he started his career with, in 2014 with the Cavs compiling a league-worst 97-215 record in the four seasons since his initial departure.
Two seasons later, and James was celebrating a third NBA title as Cleveland became the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the finals. His back-to-back 41-points in games five and six mounted the comeback, as he led his troops to a 4-3 victory over a dominant Golden State Warriors outfit who had just managed a record breaking 73-win season.
As recently as 2020, James won his fourth NBA crown, this time with the Lakers as his latest employers beat his previous side Miami Heat 4-2. That triumph tied the Lakers with Boston Celtics on 17 NBA titles, with James incredibly named Finals MVP for the fourth time in his career.
Yes, that is correct. Four NBA titles, four Finals MVP honours to his name. Lebron James is a man for the big occasion.
He has also been named as the MVP for the season on four occasions, and hasn’t been excluded from the All-Star line-up since 2005. The only season that James hasn’t made it into the All-Star team was in 2004, during his debut outing in the franchise. Being named rookie of the year isn’t a terrible consolation though, is it?
His place as a great of the sport is beyond question, but has a career spanning almost two trophy-laden decades reached its climax? The Ohio-born superstar has earned the right to make that decision in his own time, but it would be a crying shame to see him carry on in sport for too long in the same way that the aforementioned Ali, Bolt and Williams did.
In the aftermath of that unprecedented early play-off departure just last week, former teammate Channing Frye suggested that James should call time on his career.
“If LeBron has averaged under 25 points, then I think he should retire,” Frye said. “It’s crazy to say, but if he leaves with averages like this then it looks good.”
James has aspirations of sharing an NBA court with his son, Bronny, who he predicts will become a franchise player by the time James Sr turns 39.
It’s a sweet sentiment, but is it worth allowing the watching world to see his talents fade on the biggest stage of all?
His legendary career deserves more than that.