It’s been obvious to anyone watching the Finals that LeBron James is taking on a superhuman workload. But according to group of leading athletic trainers and scientists, we haven’t fully grasped just how much is being asked of him. Thanks to injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love and the horrible shooting of J.R. Smith, James has been asked to do basically everything himself on the offensive end, and that’s before you factor in the amount of travel between games. In a fascinating piece by ESPN.com’s Tom Haberstroh, the Athletic Lab’s Michael Young compared James’ workload to a Tour de France rider.
Playing 40-plus minutes multiple times a week while traveling across the country and carrying the offensive load?
“That’s the top of the top,” Young says. “Every one of these NBA guys are under a tremendous amount of stress at this point, but LeBron in particular, playing 46 minutes a game with that travel and quick turnaround … it’s a little insane. That’s unbelievable, really, to bear that mental and physical burden and still play at a high level.”
When asked if there is any athletic equivalent to playing two games in three days while traveling across three time zones, Young paused for a moment to think. He could only point to one.
“Maybe the Tour de France,” Young says.
But even that, Young attests, can’t quite capture the carnage on James’ body.
“In cycling, there’s no physical impact on your body like basketball,” Young says. “The overall workload is significantly higher on the Tour but there’s no constant impact, which plays a huge role in fatigue that LeBron is probably experiencing. And there’s no real travel to speak of.”
It’s not just this season, either. Between the regular season and playoffs, James has played almost 6,000 more minutes than anyone else in the league since the 2003-04 season, and that’s before you take into account Team USA play.
If the Cavs somehow win the series, it will be the most impressive feat of James’ career.