“He’s a runaway freight train.” How often have we heard this or similar statements when Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James soars for an emphatic dunk? Probably more often than we remember. James is arguably the most complete and holistic basketball player we’ve ever witnessed. One of the factors that contribute to LeBron’s success on the court is his physique.
The NBA officially lists him at 6’9 and 250 pounds. There aren’t too many guys with those measurements. Moreover, those that do are unlikely to have James’ explosiveness. Some of these players are a young Blake Griffin and Zion Williamson.
James has been referred to as a point guard in a power forward’s body. That said, have you ever wondered what if he were a point guard in a point guard’s body? What if the King were just 6’2? Let’s give this little thought experiment a try.
Entering the league in 2003, LeBron James would still be a relatively skinny teenager from St. Vincent – St. Mary High School. He’d work on his body tirelessly, until he gains enough muscle to handle the wear and tear of an NBA season. It’s important that he doesn’t gain too much muscle to the point that he can’t attack the rim consistently.
Since our only variable is the decrease in height, his natural athleticism and physicality will remain the same. A 6’2, LeBron James would have a physique somewhere in between Eric Bledsoe, who’s already called “mini LeBron” and Marcus Smart. He’d have a decent wingspan for his height of 6’5.
Because of the era that LeBron entered in, and much like most kids who grew up being more athletic than everyone else, he’ll still need to work on his jump shot. Our tinier version of LeBron will most likely have a more developed jump shot by the time he reaches his first NBA finals in the 2006-2007 season compared to his real life counterpart.
Due to his smaller stature, the need for a more well-rounded game is more immediate. At point guard height, his drives to the rim could be contested more easily by bigs like Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. Before leaving for the Miami Heat, his shooting from the mid-range and three will earn the respect of NBA defenders everywhere.
There are just a handful of players who can step in to each of the five positions on the court. Real life James can play point guard to center on both offense and defense.
Since today’s basketball is more positionless, this adaptability of LeBron isn’t as noticeable. Mini, thought experiment Bron won’t be able to switch onto multiple defenders, since he’s only big enough to play both guard spots (at best). The Miami Heat chasedown blocks are still possible and he might develop to be an elite on-ball defender.
The Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) award is an accolade that continues to elude James. It is debatable that he should’ve won it over Marc Gasol in 2013. Since the 1987-1988 season, only two guards have won the award. These are Michael Jordan and Gary “The Glove” Payton.
By the very nature of the game, interior defenders have a bigger total impact than their perimeter counterparts. If James didn’t win DPOY as a do-it-all forward, then he won’t win it as a lockdown guard. This is the only facet of the game that a smaller LeBron would do considerably worse at.
LeBron James is a combination of special talent and hard work. If he were 6’2, he’d be forced to improve his game more quickly. All of that being said, he’s so special a talent it is possible that he still reaches the same heights as 6’9 LeBron James.