Since LeBron James entered the NBA in 2003-04, only Andre Miller has played more regular-season games.
Of all LeBron’s achievements, this might the most underrated. The ability to stay healthy is huge, especially for good players. If top players like LeBron miss games, the dropoff to their replacements is huge and extremely costly to their teams.
So, LeBron’s endurance has been pivotal.
But LeBron also missed his team’s final regular-season game each of the past six years, sitting out more April games half those years. His teams have typically been positioned to rest players, and he has indulged.
That could change this season.
James says he plans on playing the remaining eight games as long as he stays healthy. After making that statement, he promptly “knocked on wood” at his locker with hopes of avoiding injury.
“I have no choice,” James said. “I don’t plan on sitting out any of these (eight) games unless something happens. I’m going to be in the lineup.”
“It’s never been part of my DNA,” said James, who has missed just three games this season. “If I feel I can get something, I’ve got to be out there for my teammates. It’s my obligation to be out there for them. I’m dealing with a few things but for me to sit out, I have to be dealing with a lot more.”
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The Heat (52-22) are locked in a battle with the Pacers (53-23) for the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed, and that very well could go down to the season’s final day.
Dwyane Wade has been hobbled, putting more onus on LeBron to carry Miami. Resting Wade definitely takes priority over resting LeBron.
Plus, the more LeBron plays, the better chance he has of stealing MVP from Kevin Durant.
Durant leads the competition because he’s had the best season and voters have LeBron fatigue, but the race is still too close to call. If LeBron plays well these last couple weeks and Durant slips, it’s at least possible LeBron could overtake the Thunder star. LeBron definitely can’t win if he sits.
There’s a lot more at stake for LeBron than usual at this point in the season, and that’s why he’s taking this unusual step.