There is this great temptation to offer daily updates on how LeBron James is changing the culture on the Los Angeles Lakers by sharing his transcendence with this once great, now lapsed NBA team.
Something new and exciting might even be happening as you read this, something tangible. maybe nuanced about what’s new and interesting about the integration process.
As we move though the season, we’ll do our best to pick and choose the highlights or milestones that merit being underlined and emphasized. Remember, LeBron is capable to doing anything at any moment. We know how great he is. We promise to be vigilant. But we won’t bore you.
Well, now that you mention it, something really cool happened on Wednesday in Los Angeles. LeBron took another step up the league’s career scoring ladder, gently ascending over Wilt Chamberlain into fifth place.
LeBron jumped Wilt the Stilt’s 31,419 on an old-school three-point play with just under four minutes left in the fourth quarter of LA’s 126-117 win over the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center.
But that wasn’t the end of it. LeBron ended up with 44 points, the most by a Laker since Kobe dropped 60 on the Utah Jazz in the final game of his career on April 14, 2016.
LeBron also cozied up to a triple-double with 10 rebounds and nine assists. He might have had 10 dishes had Lonzo Ball, never the shy guy, launched the open three The King set him up with as clocked ticked down. Oh, LeBron also blocked three shots.
“My jumper was very comfortable,” said James. “My three-ball was feeling pretty good.”
LeBron’s definition of good: 5-of-6 from three, 13-of-19 from field. He was particularly lethal in the third quarter when he scored 16.
“When I’m able to do what I love to do, and do it at this level – and even being mentioned with the greats that have ever played this game – it just always brings me back to my hometown of Akron, [Ohio],” said James on ESPN after the game. “And knowing where I come from, knowing how hard it was to get to this point – it’s just never being in satisfied mode. I give it all to the man above for giving me God-given abilities. I’m taking full advantage. And then my coaching staff and my teammates throughout these 16 years so far, have gotten me to this point.”
LeBron now has 31,425 points and he is only 33 years old. And how will the world react when he approaches the guy who is No. 4 on the list – Michael Jordan (32,292) is 868 away.
ESPN has done the math for us. If LeBron plays every game and adheres to his career scoring average (26.4), he should be veering into the passing lane at some point in late January.
Is LeBron a greater player than Jordan? Well, at that point, he certainly will be a more prolific scorer. The remainder of the boxes will be filled in at a later date.
Once Jordan is toppled, only Kobe (33,643), Karl Malone (36,928) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) remain to be conquered by LA’s new gold and purple idol.
“It’s surreal, it’s surreal sometimes,” said Brandon Ingram. “You don’t really think about it sometimes until it actually happens, and you notice you’re playing with the greatest player in the world.”
Apparently, not much has changed, in a very fundamental sense, with the kind of treatment King James receives from opponents. They are still doing what they can to pummel him every chance they get.
Against the Blazers, two culprits were ID’d by Lakers center Tyson Chandler – Jusaf Nurkic and CJ McCollum.
“I just don’t like to see any of my teammates get hit like that, especially a vet like LeBron who has taken enough hits throughout his career,” said Chandler. “You don’t like to see that at all. I thought it was a little aggressive after the foul, which is what upset me.”
After a slow start that seemed to get under Magic Johnson’s executive skin, the Lakers are now rolling. They have won four straight, seven of 10 and are 8-6. LeBron is averaging 27.6 points and 7.2 assists.
The Lakers won 35 games last season, their most in the five years since their last playoff team lost four straight to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2012-13 opening round. The 2015-16 team won only 17 games.
As of Nov. 15 last season, the Lakers were 6-9. So while the improvement isn’t dramatic, there is certainly evidence that it’s there.
Of course, things will invariably happen to test this team’s resolve. On Wednesday, Rajon Rondo broke his hand which will keep him out for a few weeks.
“I’m not one to put a cap on how many games we need to see where we are,” said James. “I think we want to just try to get better each and every month. I believe we’re better here in November than we were in October. If we continue on this trend, we will be where we want to be after the New Year.”
We are certain we’ll be in touch with more LeBron news very soon.