INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — With Tim Duncan(Tim Duncan Jersey) gearing up to play what could be the last game of his storied career Thursday if the San Antonio Spurs lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder, LeBron James said his eventual decision on retirement won’t be entirely up to him.
“I think later on in my 30s,” James, 31, said of when he will start thinking about hanging it up. “It’s kind of up to my kids, really. I’ve missed so much of my kids’ tournaments and things of that nature when I’m playing. So, it’s kind of up to them. They’ll let me know when they’re tired of seeing me go away.”
James and his wife, Savannah, have three children: LeBron Jr. (11 years old), Bryce (8) and Zhuri (1 1/2).
For now, he is trying to make a sixth straight trip to the Finals — and a second straight with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He only needs four more wins in the conference finals to do so, but for now the Cavs await a winner in the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat semifinal series, which the Raptors lead 3-2.
The 13-year veteran said the deep postseason runs have caused him to adjust how he approaches the regular season.
“It’s changed how I prepare my body throughout a long season,” James said. “It’s not like I go into the season saying, ‘OK, I’m going to play into June.’ I don’t have that sense of entitlement, but I do prepare myself for the long haul. And saying, if I am fortunate enough to be a part of it, then it’s more of a marathon and not a sprint for me. I’ve played a lot of basketball over the last few years and I’ve been fortunate to play at the highest level for a long time now. I have to listen to my body, and my body has done well for me.”
While James has been able to remain a dominant player for well over a decade, he foresees advancements in medical technology and nutrition programs allowing players to extend their careers longer than ever before.
“I think with the science and the research and the ability to have multiple trainers and things of that nature and also guys taking the individual account of their own bodies, guys are able to play into their late 30s and some into their 40s, as you’re seeing today,” James said. “You got Andre Miller, you got Timmy D [Tim Duncan] who are playing into their 40s. And I played with Ray Allen late in his 30s …
“[Guys are] playing into their late 30s because of the technology and also guys are taking care of their body and understanding, ‘Yeah, we can play beyond what the expectancy is of our sport.’ So, I think it’s a pretty cool thing. We got guys that are 36 on our team, and you look at RJ [Richard Jefferson], he is in better shape than anyone on our team. And you got James Jones as well. So, I think it’s been great to be around guys like that.”
Of course, it’s also been good for James to be around Kyrie Irving (24) and Kevin Love (27), guys who he can lean on and who help save his body from the stress of carrying the Cavs in the postseason — as he did last year when teammates went down because of injuries.
“In these playoffs, you can kind of see he’s not looking to do a lot,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. “In the fourth quarter, if he has to take over a game he will, but he’s playing a lot through Kyrie, a lot through Kevin, a lot through other guys making their shots. He’s just making the right play. It’s not a lot of pressure, not a lot of strain on his body to have to make every single play like he has in his career.
“With that being said, he can play more minutes. He can focus on more on defense and not take minutes off the defensive end. It’s been great for him. You could tell. He’s just really feeling the game out. If there’s a part in the game when he has to take over, he’ll take over.”
Indeed, his minutes are up from 35.6 during the regular season to 38.8 during the playoffs. Following the Cavs’ sweep over Atlanta last weekend, James admitted to ESPN.com he was feeling “a little banged up, but with a week off, I’ll feel great.”