LeBron James continues to defy expectations and rewrite the narrative of aging in the NBA. Toward the tail end of his 21st season, the Los Angeles Lakers superstar has not only sustained his dominance but even enhanced his skills in one vital aspect of the game. While he may need to temper displays of extraordinary athleticism due to his age, James remains an incredibly effective player, showcasing a level of impact that rivals his physical prime.

As NBA players age, they must adjust their playing styles to account for reduced speed, agility and endurance. There are various strategies for this adaptation. Some legends opt to slim down, while others choose to bulk up. Many also embrace a diminished role to enhance their effectiveness and efficiency on the court.

Most veteran players who managed to prolong their careers had one key tactic in common: Enhancing their shooting skills from long range. This adjustment allows older players to minimize the wear and tear on their bodies while still contributing effectively on offense. Improving their three-point shooting not only compensates for reduced athleticism, but also makes it less noticeable and limiting.

James has clearly grasped this concept, transforming one of his few weaknesses into a notable strength. At 39 years old, the four-time champion is having his best season in terms of long-distance shooting, hitting an impressive 41.3% from beyond the arc while attempting over five shots per game. This indicates that he may have discovered a method to maintain this shooting prowess for an extended period.

A change in LeBron James' shot mechanics

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

James' improved shooting isn't by chance. It's a result of notable shooting adjustments and a faster release, contributing to the Lakers' top-five offensive rating since the All-Star break.

This season, there's been a noticeable change in James' shooting mechanics, as profiled by Chris Herring of ESPN. According to Second Spectrum tracking, his shoulder alignment before catch-and-shoot 3-pointers has shifted nearly seven degrees from left to right. Similarly, his hip alignment has moved about six degrees from left to right compared to last season.

These adjustments help James square up better to the basket, making his one of the most significant biometric shifts among high-volume 3-point shooters in the league. His improvement isn't just in mechanics, either.

James has quickened his catch-and-shoot 3-point release by 0.18 seconds, marking the second-largest decrease in the NBA, per ESPN. This change is especially notable because he had the slowest release on catch-and-shoot triples last season.

His efficiency has skyrocketed, hitting 45.2% on catch-and-shoot 3s, marking a 12.8 percentage-point surge from the previous season. Particularly impressive is James' boost in catch-and-shoot triples above the break from his favored left side, now at an astonishing 55% (36-for-66), a remarkable leap from 29% (19-for-66) in the previous season.

During a recent game, ESPN color analyst Doris Burke questioned James about his shooting adjustment.

“Of course it's by design,” James responded to Burke, as relayed by Herring. “I'm trying hard to get my right arm and right shoulder aligned with the basket, more so than it was a season ago from [the left side] of the floor.”

James' shooting surge sparks debate on longevity, sustainability

There's a perspective that James' shooting surge might be a temporary hot streak rather than a lasting transformation, prompting inquiries about its sustainability going forward. If we were to ask James, his improved shooting this season is a result of being able to focus on his game more consistently due to reduced injury setbacks. This season, he's on track to play the most games since the 2017-18 campaign, where he participated in all 82 contests.

“I've been able to be on the floor a lot more during non-game days,” James said recently, per Herring. “My foot has felt a lot better. I didn't have much time to really rep a lot last year because I couldn't be on the floor running around or put much pounding on the floor with my foot. I've had a lot of opportunities to get on the floor. You probably see me before the game out on the floor working on my game, working on my craft, so that's helped out a lot, too.”

James is expected to remain a crucial component of the Lakers' offense, particularly given his ongoing success from beyond the arc, which creates challenges for defenders and expands opportunities for both him and his teammates on the court.

The King’s incredible evolution into a proficient shooter at 39 has not just boosted his own game, but also been a key factor in the Lakers' late-season offensive prowess—improvement they'll need to build on even further to make a deep run in the playoffs.