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After 18 Years in the NBA, it's LeBron James vs. Father Time

All-Pro Reels
Wikimedia Commons
LeBron James lost in the first round of the playoffs for the first time in his 18-year career

The NBA Finals are underway, and the most dominant player of the last decade won’t be there. LeBron James has played in nine of the last 10 Finals. In his 18-year career, he had never lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs until this year. His Los Angeles Lakers were defeated by the Phoenix Suns, who have gone on to the Finals.

"18 years. Imagine that," Pluto said. "Even Michael Jordan had lost in the first round," he said.

James is now 36 years old and has played in the NBA for half of his life. He has four championship rings with three different teams.

A quick turnaround and injuries
He missed 26 games this season with a sprained ankle. That's the most games he's missed in a season.

"I'm sure in L.A. the assumption was he'll get him to the Finals again, because that's what he does," Pluto said.

In a June 16 tweet, James said the quick turnaround from the 2020 pandemic season is resulting in many NBA players suffering serious injuries. James and his Lakers won the NBA title in October, 2020. The 2021 season began just 72 days later in December.

Pluto agrees.

"There's been three sports that have played through the pandemic that I pay attention to. One was football, which they stayed on their regular schedule and they didn't have an excessive amount of injuries. It wasn't like baseball [and basketball] which we see where everyone is getting hurt," he said

"What do you do when Father Time is not only knocking at the door but has come under the door and starting to pull at them?"
Terry Pluto

Father Time knocking
James has another year left on his two-year, $85 million contract with the Lakers.

"What do you do when Father Time is not only knocking at the door but has come under the door and starting to pull at them?"

Pluto says he hopes the superstar will know when to retire.

"All of them say, 'I'll know when to quit. You won't see me dragging around out there looking bad.' Well, I remember Michael Jordan saying that. And he did quit at the top, but then he came back and played a couple years later with the Washington Wizards. He still scored 18-to-20 points but he was an old guy out there," Pluto said.

Cleveland memories
Pluto reflects back on James' last season in Cleveland in 2018.

"That actually was the best that I saw LeBron play. He dragged them to the Finals. In his mind I think he knew he was out of the door and I think he thought, 'I'm going to give my best to Cleveland,'" Pluto said.

And Pluto says whatever the future holds for James, he wants Cleveland fans to remember the 2016 championship.

"The Cavs were playing Golden State in Oracle Arena in Oakland. While the Golden State fans are trudging out, something like 1,000 Cavs fans lined the court chanting 'Let's go Cavs.' If there's one memory that Cavs fans should have of LeBron James, it starts on that Father's Day and continues through the parade and that whole week of things. Because he did deliver in historic fashion," he said.

Amanda Rabinowitz is the host of “All Things Considered” on Ideastream Public Media.