Many longtime NBA fans are amazed that LeBron James is already playing in his 13th season. At first glance, that number might not seem particularly important, but consider this — Larry Bird played only 13 total seasons in his career.
Bird, who is frequently referred to as the best small forward in history, was forced into retirement by back problems after the 1991-92 season. James, meanwhile, remains one of the best players in the NBA even though he has already played in considerably more regular season games than Bird.
As a player, James shares many qualities with Bird. Both men were terrific all-around players who filled up stat sheets in almost all statistical categories. Like Bird, James has tremendous court vision and passing skills. While Bird might have been a better long-range shooter than James, LeBron has made up for that difference with his incredible efficiency in finishing plays close to the basket.
Because he came along two decades after Bird, James has benefited from better nutrition, weight training, and travel accommodations. He also had the benefit of entering the NBA straight out of high school, whereas Bird played a full college career first. However, LeBron’s supporters also argue that he is a better athlete than Bird ever was, meaning that he was built for longevity in a way that Bird wasn’t.
The site Land of Basketball shows that Bird and James are almost neck-and-neck in career accomplishments, with Bird holding the edge in championships and rebounds per game and LeBron carrying an advantage in MVP Awards and points per game.
Both James and Bird are among the 10 best NBA players ever, but only LeBron has a chance to add to his legacy. Even before James finishes out his career, LeBron vs. Larry is already one of the best debates in NBA history.