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As LeBron James enters his 17th NBA season, Bleacher Report is taking a look at where the four-time MVP sits in the history books in several statistical categories now, after his projected 2019-20 season and following the remainder of his Hall of Fame career.
Already near the top of the all-time leaderboards in numerous categories, James has passed some of the game’s greatest players, and even more legends are about to be bumped down the rankings.
First up in this series is total minutes played, both in the regular and postseason. James’ longevity has become part of his lore, along with the incredible production that he’s been able to maintain now heading into his age-35 season.
2019-20 Regular-Season/Playoffs Minutes Projection
He’s played 46,235 career regular-season minutes, which equates to an average of 38.6 minutes per game in his 1,198 total contests. To put that in perspective, only one player in the last five years (Jimmy Butler in 2014-15) has averaged that much playing time over a single season, let alone an entire career.
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James’ combination of heavy usage, incredible durability and lengthy career fueled his rise up the all-time minutes leaderboard. He has averaged nearly 75 games per season, and he played in all 82 in his age-33 campaign with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017-18. He’s missed only 98 games across 16 seasons, many of which came last year with the Los Angeles Lakers because of a groin injury.
With James set to turn 35 on Dec. 30, the Lakers will have to continue to be cautious about his usage. While he didn’t miss a single game and led the NBA at 36.9 minutes per game in 2017-18, there’s no reason for him to log his usual workload in preparation for what L.A. hopes to be a lengthy playoff run.
The Lakers played 13 back-to-backs last season, and the league average as a whole was 13.9. While James likely won’t sit out every back-to-back in 2019-20, he’ll likely miss at least a few for load management. He could also rest for a few games toward the end of the regular season to prepare for the playoffs, and he might miss games because of nagging injuries as well.
His average number of minutes over the last five years (2,591.8) should be a good guideline. That comes out to around 71 games at 36.4 minutes per night. The Lakers should try to lower his playing time if possible, but playing in a loaded Western Conference could make that difficult.
If James does play around 2,600 minutes, he’ll move from 15th all the way up to seventh on the all-time list, passing the following legends:
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While James could pass Kobe Bryant in 2019-20, Elvin Hayes will be untouchable. James would have to play all 82 games while averaging 46 minutes per night, which is out of the question even for him.
When it comes to the postseason, James can’t rise any higher.
He passed Tim Duncan for first place (10,049 total minutes) during the 2018 postseason and can only add distance between himself and the retired San Antonio Spurs star. The next-closest active NBA player is 31st-ranked Kevin Durant (5,598 minutes). With Durant expected t