Dave McMenaminESPN staff writer5 minutes to read
LOS ANGELES – THE NIGHT BEFORE LeBron James scored a season-high 37 points — including a go-ahead layup with 1.9 seconds left — while scoring 40 minutes to lead the Lakers over the Houston Rockets 105-104 on Sunday, and he had something to get off his chest. .
It was a rare evening for the 38-year-old, with his team in the midst of six games in nine days, and he took a break from playing Madden NFL 24 to make a post to his Instagram story.
He shared a graphic showing how his 35 points against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday marked the 108th time he topped the 30-point plateau since signing with Los Angeles as a free agent in 2018.
“But I only came here to make movies!” James wrote, referring to the ridicule he received when he left Cleveland. “Isn’t that what you’re going to say right!?!?”
Why did he choose that moment to respond to his critics?
“Because sometimes you need to remind people,” James said Sunday after the win over the Rockets.
He reminded his teammates that he could still get up in the air, ending the drive with a thunderous dunk midway through the fourth that put Los Angeles up by seven and caused Houston to call a timeout.
“They used to joke about me, saying I drop the ball a lot when I have an open lane,” James said with a satisfied smile. “So I’m trying to change that narrative as well.”
He reminded coaches who questioned why he passed to an open Cam Reddish with the game on the line earlier in the season that he would still find the open man in prime time, as he did by setting up Austin Reaves for a three-pointer with 24.2 seconds left. Los Angeles leads 103-100.
He reminded Rockets player Dillon Brooks, who has become his instigator in recent seasons, to shake the cage at his own risk, as James scored 13 of his points in the fourth quarter on 5-of-6 shooting.
“This is a competition,” James said of Brooks, who, in the third quarter, drew a technical foul on James by crowding his allotted space and elbowing him, and in the fourth quarter, prompted James to make a “tiny little” gesture. After scoring it in the paint. “These guys, they keep me going. So, I need that.”
James reminds himself why he still wants to play in the NBA, with his financial future and professional accomplishments already secured.
“Just trying to push the limit,” he said. “Look how far I can take this thing. I don’t know. I mean, it’s me versus Father Time.”
James now reaches 109 games with 30 or more points as a Laker, passing Lakers legend Kobe Bryant on another historic list while doing so. James has reached 237 career games with 35 or more points, surpassing Bryant’s 236, to move into third place all-time, behind only Wilt Chamberlain (381) and Michael Jordan (333).
James did so while shooting 14-of-19 from the field (73.7%), continuing what will be the most efficient season he’s ever played if he keeps it up. James is now shooting 58.6% overall for the season through 13 games, which is better than his best year of his career with the Miami Heat in 2013-14, when he shot 56.7%. His 39.7% from 3 isn’t far off from the best 40.6% he achieved with Miami in 2012-13 either.
“I’ve been able to be on the field a lot more on my off days this year because of past injuries to my feet over the last couple of years or whatever the case may be,” James told ESPN. “So being able to focus on whatever I needed to do instead of having to get off my feet, unless we were playing games, allowed me to stay in my rhythm.
“I got my bounce back, my spring return, my quick rebound and things like that.”
He seemed to have regained his soul as well. After ending his 20th season by eliminating the Denver Nuggets from the playoffs and publicly contemplating retirement, and then a summer in which his eldest son, Bronny James, suffered a heart attack, his joy for the game has been evident this season. .
“The thing about Bron is I’ve never seen him in a bad mood,” Reeves said. “He always has energy. He’s the oldest player in the NBA but he still acts like he’s 20 every day.”
He did so Sunday with Bruni in the building hours after the USC freshman was able to participate in his team’s warmups for the first time this season.
“I looked at one point and saw Bronny sitting on the field as well, and I said: ‘Okay, I’ve got to turn the volume up a little bit more,'” James said.
Turn it around and back again.
“It was great,” Lakers coach Darvin Hamm said. “The LeBron we’ve all come to know and love over these 21 years.”
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