Dave McMenaminESPN staff writer5 minutes reading
LOS ANGELES — The night before LeBron James scored a season-high 37 points — including the free throw with 1.9 seconds left — while logging 40 minutes to lead the Lakers 105-104 over the Houston Rockets on Sunday, had something to get off his mind.
It was a rare night off for the 38-year-old player, with his team in the middle of a six-game-in-nine-day stretch, and he took a break from playing Madden NFL 24 to post on his Instagram post story.
He shared a graph showing how his 35 points against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday marked the 108th time he reached the 30-point plateau since signing with Los Angeles as a free agent in 2018.
“But I just came here to make movies!” James wrote, referring to the ridicule he received when he left Cleveland. “Isn’t that what you said right!?!?”
Why did he choose that moment to clap back at critics?
“Because sometimes you have to remind people,” James said after the win over the Rockets on Sunday.
He reminded his teammates that he can still get in the air and ended a drive with a thunderous dunk midway through the fourth, giving LA a lead of seven and forcing Houston to call a timeout.
“They made fun of me and said I put the ball on the ground too much when there was an open lane,” James said with a satisfied smile. “So I’m trying to change that narrative too.”
He reminded armchair coaches who wondered why he would switch to an open Cam Reddish with the game on the line earlier this season that he will continue to find the open man in crunch time, as he did by setting up Austin Reaves for a go -ahead 3-pointer with 24.2 seconds left to put LA up 103-100.
He reminded the Rockets’ Dillon Brooks, who has become a willing agitator of his in recent seasons, to rattle the cage at his own peril as James scored 13 of his points in the fourth quarter on 5-of-6 shooting.
“That’s competition,” James said of Brooks, who in the third quarter caused James to get a technical foul by crowding his space and taking an elbow, and in the fourth prompted James to make a “too small” gesture to make. after scoring on him in the paint. “Those young guys, they get me going. So I need that.”
And James reminds himself why he wants to continue playing in the NBA, with his financial future and career achievements already assured.
“I’m just trying to push the envelope,” he said. “Look how far I can go with this thing. Don’t know. I mean, it’s me against Father Time.’
James has now played 109 games with 30 or more points as a Laker, passing Lakers legend Kobe Bryant on another historic list. James has 237 career games with 35 points or more, eclipsing Bryant’s 236 and placing third all-time behind only Wilt Chamberlain (381) and Michael Jordan (333).
James did it while shooting 14 of 19 from the field (73.7%), as he continued what would be the most efficient season he’s ever played if he continues like this. James is now shooting 58.6% overall on the season through 13 games, which is better than his best career year with the Miami Heat in 2013-14 when he shot 56.7%. His 39.7% from 3 is also not far off the career-best 40.6% he posted with Miami in 2012-13.
“I’ve been able to be on the field a lot more this year on days off because of past injuries with my foot or whatever,” James told ESPN. “So being able to do everything I need to do instead of having to get up unless we’re playing games helps me stay in the rhythm.
“I got my bounce back, my spring back, my fast twitch back and things like that.”
He also has his mind back, it seems. After ending his 20th season by being swept out of the playoffs by the Denver Nuggets and openly considering retirement, and then with a summer in which his eldest son, Bronny James, went into cardiac arrest, his joy is has been unmistakable for the game this season. .
“The thing about Bron is,” Reaves said, “I’ve never really seen him in a bad mood. He always has energy. He’s the oldest player in the NBA, but still acts like he’s 20 every day.” is.”
He did it with Bronny during construction hours on Sunday after the USC freshman was able to participate in his team’s pregame warmups for the first time this season.
“At one point I looked over and saw Bronny sitting on the right side too, and I thought, ‘Okay, I have to turn it up a little bit,’” James said.
Turn it up and turn back time.
“He was outstanding,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “The LeBron we have all come to know and love over the past 21 years.”