LeBron James headed north of the border to check out ol' pal Drake's OVO Fest performance in Toronto on Monday, and along the way, the recent returnee to the Cleveland Cavaliers took a couple of photographs of himself. Said photographs — shared with James' followers on Instagram and termed "selfies" by the world's top scientists — seem to show a slimmer, sleeker version of the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player than the gent who completed a very successful four-year stint with the Miami Heat back in June.
Here's the shot LeBron shared Monday:
And here's how James looked during the NBA Finals, when he was listed at 250 pounds but widely considered to be at least a bit heavier than that (and often pegged somewhere between 260 and 265):
It's possible, of course, that this is more a matter of lighting than lbs., but some weight loss would seem to go hand-in-hand with James' prior indication that he's on a diet and a report on the nature of the nutritional shift by longtime LeBron watcher Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:
LeBron James decided to cut carbs this summer & dropped significant weight as tweeted photo shows: http://t.co/bpbGvYi5Bx— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) August 4, 2014
If you're into reading tea leaves, you might look at LeBron's apparent interest in thinking thin as an indicator that he might not need quite the level of bulk he carried over the past few seasons in Miami, where he played more power forward than he ever did during his first stint in Cleveland. (He spent more than 80 percent of his floor time at the four in each of the last two seasons, according to Basketball-Reference.com's position estimates.) I'm sure you can come up with one pretty good reason why LeBron would be spending more time at small forward than at the four next year, if you really think hard enough.
Then again, maybe this is just an extension of, and variation on, a pre-existing commitment to offseason fitness. He took part in a pre-training camp weight loss challenge with former Heat teammates Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen last season, and while it's certainly never seemed like James, who will turn 30 in December, was in anything other than top shape, a move to slim down some could indicate an eye toward reducing wear and tear on a body that has played a shade under 40,000 combined regular-season and postseason minutes over the past 11 years, including 14,796 in making four straight NBA Finals runs over the past four seasons.
Besides, he just spent the past two Junes battling another future first-ballot Hall of Famer whose decision to drop "20 or 25 pounds" to reduce the burden on his knees has made a massive difference in not only prolonging his illustrious career, but protecting his ability to produce at an elite level on both ends of the floor. There are worse models to follow than Tim Duncan's, after all; Wade recently told reporters he's taking a similar tack as he prepares for the first season of his new two-year deal.
Not that Duncan was breaking new ground by changing his body, of course. A host of NBA players have made similar mid-career nutritional adjustments, including Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and more. Today's athletes have better, more comprehensive training regimens than ever before, and among the ranks of the elite — the ones expected to produce at All-Star levels, night in and night out — those fitness plans typically include a much more stringent commitment to giving your body the best possible fuel for the long championship chase ahead. It seems like James' pursuit of that goal has reached a new level as he enters his 12th year ... as if you needed another reason to think that he and the Cavs were going places in the reshuffled East.
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