LeBron James told reporters after a game this week that he intends to play for as long as he believes that he can still contend for an NBA Championship. The press conference took place after a 112-98 defeat for the Lakers at the hands of the Miami Heat.

“I know as long as my mind stays in it, I can play at this level for a minute,” James said. “Now, that’s up to my mind. My body is going to be OK because if my mind is into it, I will make sure my body is taken care of and I’ll continue to put in the work.”

James’ optimistic outlook about his limited NBA future has been reinforced by his play in recent weeks. Though the Lakers have continued to struggle and are now 14-21 on the season, James averaged 30 points per game in December. At age 37, he is clearly still capable of competing at the NBA level.

James’ main issues right now are more team-related than personal, as the Lakers still lag behind Western Conference rivals and have had to compete without Anthony Davis, who suffered an injury earlier this month. Even when Davis returns, however, Los Angeles has not demonstrated an ability to make the most of the star power on its roster.

For the first time since his earliest days as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, James is playing superbly well on a team that is not in contention to win a championship. It’s unclear how this will affect his long-term mindset in seasons to come, but for now, he seems content with his personal success.

“I know it takes steps to get there, but once you get there and know how to get there, playing basketball at this level just to be playing basketball is not in my DNA. It’s not in my DNA anymore,” James said. “So we’ll see what happens and see how fresh my mind stays over the next couple years.”

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