As we prepare for the NBA playoffs, I thought it might be a good idea to put LeBron’s insane NBA Finals streak in perspective. For starters, nobody in the modern era has ever appeared in the Finals six years in a row. Among NBA stars from 1980-onward:
Larry Bird 4
Magic Johnson 4
Michael Jordan 3 (2x)
Isiah Thomas 3
Kobe Bryant 3 (2x)
Impressed? Don’t be. Be impressed by this: NBA career playoff minutes.
Kobe Bryant 8641
LeBron James 8383
Shaquille O’Neal 8098
Magic Johnson 7538
Tony Parker 7480
Michael Jordan 7474
Larry Bird 6886
LeBron is only 32 years old and he’s already bypassed just about everyone in career playoff minutes. (He also cracked the top 25 in regular season minutes played this despite rest.) Sometime in the 2nd round, LeBron will overtake Kobe Bryant for the 3rd most playoff minutes in NBA history. Repeat: He’s only 32 years old!
And now, unfortunately, it’s time to remind everyone of some not-so-great news as LeBron attempts to reach the Finals for the 7th straight time.
Larry Bird’s last great year was 1988 when he was 31-years old. Back injuries slowed him greatly in his next four seasons. He played in 17 playoff games in 1988 (lost in the Finals); the following four years he appeared in 17 playoff games total.
Where is 2-time NBA champ Isiah Thomas on the list? His career ended at 32 due to injury.
You see Tony Parker’s name on the list? He’s 34. Turns 35 in May. A no-doubt Hall of Famer, Parker has slowed down significantly in recent years and this season was the worst he’s had since his rookie year.
The point to all this: LeBron has done something none of these players have accomplished. If this comes across as me baking in excuses for LeBron in case the Cavs don’t get out of the East … well, it’s because I am. The East is better than it has been in recent years. The Cavs are coming off a title and haven’t played well for half the season.
There’s simply no way LeBron can be expected to bail out the Cavs when they get in trouble this postseason. I know we shouldn’t doubt him, but he’s human … right?