On Sunday, LeBron James recorded his sixth triple-double of the season, scoring 16 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and handing out 11 assists in a win over the Wizards in Washington. It was his third consecutive triple-double and his fourth in the past five games. After a 5-7 start, the Cavaliers have won 18 of their past 19 games.
James is in his 15th season in the league and turns 33 later this month. The season he's having is helping to put in perspective where he ranks among the all-time greats. In November, James became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 29,000 points. He's scored in double digits in 822 consecutive games, which trails only Michael Jordan, who scored in double digits in 866 consecutive games. James is also the only player in NBA history to rank in the top 10 all-time in both points and assists.
There's more. James is the only player in NBA history to rank in the top 10 all-time in both points and assists. He is now sixth on the all-time triple-doubles list. If he wins the MVP award this season, it will be the fifth of his career, which would tie him with Jordan and put him just one MVP away from tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won it six times.
James is already at the top of many all-time statistical categories, but what's even more incredible is that the season he's having -- at his age and with the number of minutes he's logged in his career -- is unprecedented. Because he entered the league at the age of 18 and has made eight Finals appearances, including the last seven consecutive Finals, James entered this season having already played more career minutes (including playoffs) than Jordan.
Against the Wizards in November, James scored 57 points in a win, becoming the second player to score over 50 points in a game in his 15th season or later. The other was Kobe Bryant at age 37 in the final game of his career, as you might remember, when he scored 60 points on 50 shots.
In a win over the Hawks last week, James scored 25 points and had 17 assists while shooting 11-for-13 from the field. He became the first player since John Stockton in 1986 to make 10 shots, shoot over 80 percent from the field and record 15 assists in a game.
This season, James is averaging 27.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 9.3 assists. He's shooting 57 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. He's having the best shooting season of his career and averaging a career high in assists. Let's assume James finishes with averages of 28 points, eight rebounds and nine assists and shoots over 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three. Per Basketball Reference, the only other player to post those averages in a season was Oscar Robertson in 1962-63 (not including 3-point percentage, since the 3-point shot wasn't introduced until 1980).
The complete list of players who have averaged 28 points, eight rebounds and nine assists in a single season includes Robertson (who did it five times in his career), James Harden, Russell Westbrook and James. No player has done it past their age-30 season. James would be the first.
Even if we downgrade the numbers to, say, 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, the complete list of players who have averaged those numbers in a single season includes James, Robertson, Harden, Westbrook, John Havlicek, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. The only players to post those averages at age 30 were Havlicek (who did it in his age-30 and 31 seasons) and Bird (who did it in his age-30 season). Again, James would be the first player to post those averages at age 33.
The fact we're even asking the question of whether this is the best season in James' career is remarkable.
Statistically, the best career comparisons might be James' last two seasons in Cleveland before he left for Miami. During the 2008-09 season, James averaged 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists. The following year, he put up 29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.6 assists. The Cavaliers were the No. 1 seed in the East in both of those seasons, winning 66 and 61 games. James was named the MVP in back-to-back years, and in both seasons he was named first-team All-NBA and first-team All-Defense.
In terms of overall impact to his team's success, the 2006-07 season might be a better comparison. That was the year James led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals, on a team with Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao, Eric Snow, Daniel Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic as the supporting cast. This year's Cavs are much deeper, but they're also not the same roster that has made the previous three Finals together.
Kyrie Irving is in Boston. Derrick Rose has played in seven games. Isaiah Thomas has yet to make his season debut as he continues to recover from a hip injury. The Cavaliers have been starting 36-year-old Jose Calderon at point guard. Tristan Thompson has played just 10 games this year. J.R. Smith is averaging his fewest points per game since his second season in the league. The Cavs are also relying on Jeff Green, Kyle Korver and Dwyane Wade as part of their rotation.
James is once again taking on every role for his team, from primary ball handler, to elite 3-pointer shooter, to a dominant offensive force down low, to an athletic terror who can still cover up for his team's mistakes on the defensive end. He's doing it all while being one of the most efficient players in the league.
We've been marveling at James' durability and consistency for a decade and a half. Take all of the above into consideration, and you can definitely make the case that this is not only the best season of his career, but also -- considering his age and career mileage -- one of the most incredible seasons in NBA history.
On Saturday, after a win over the Jazz, James talked about wanting to break the mold of people assuming when a players' prime starts and ends. "This is my 15th year, but this is one of the best years I've had as far as how I feel, and I want to continue that," James said. "So just take the narrative out of, 'OK, you're past your prime when you get [to] 31,' or 'you're past your prime in your 12th year in the league,' or whatever the case may be."
There will come a time when James will lose a step, and he will no longer put up the ridiculous numbers that he's logging on a nightly basis. But that phase of his career still feels far away, and when we take a look back at his entire career, his 2017-18 season will be something we will all marvel at as something we have never seen before for a player who doesn't look like he will ever slow down.