LeBron James: Is this the end of an era for one of the NBA’s greatest players?

Since the inception of sport, one opponent remains undefeated for any athlete – regardless of ability, competitive spirit or resilience: Father Time.

It could argued that LeBron James has put up the toughest fight yet, having been the dominant force in the NBA for the best part of two decades.

But after the 36-year-old’s team, the Los Angeles Lakers, were knocked out in the first round of this season’s play-offs, there are those who’ve been left wondering: Is this the end of an era?

“He’s been doing this for half of his life at the highest level – and a lot of people won’t understand what it takes not only to compete but remain at that level,” Myles Hesson, the Great Britain men’s basketball captain, told BBC Sport.

“I wouldn’t say it’s the end of an era – more like the changing of an era. I think we’ve come to a point where he needs help, maybe more help than he needed before.”

James is widely considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time – if not the greatest.

Many players, coaches, commentators and fans often agree it’s a direct toss-up between James and Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan.

James has won the NBA Championship four times – with three different teams – a feat many see as testament to his ability to transform the fortune of a franchise.

During his 18 seasons in the NBA, he has led his team to the play-offs on 15 occasions.

Before Thursday’s 113-100 loss to the Phoenix Suns – who won their best-of-seven series 4-2 – he had never failed to make it past the first round.