While the first half of the Lakers’ season hasn’t been the victory tour that fans were hoping for when the team acquired Russell Westbrook to complement LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the high level of play that James has maintained is something that fans need to stop and appreciate. After 17 mostly injury-free seasons, LeBron has been hampered by quite a few nagging injuries over the last two seasons with the Lakers. As would be the case with any team with LeBron James on the roster, things are quite different when he doesn’t play vs when he does. A preseason Finals favorite, the Lakers are currently fighting for a play-in spot with James popping in and out of the lineup with a lingering knee injury.
It’s weird to see one of the most consistent iron men in the history of the league finally begin to show signs of wear and tear but in Year 19, one thing that can’t be ignored are the numbers a 37-year-old LeBron continues to put up when he does play. With averages of 29 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists, James continues to be a force of nature with the power to bend a team to his will. His first game back from knee issues, the Lakers came back from over 20 points down to beat the Knicks in OT, a win that probably wouldn’t have been possible without LeBron in the lineup.
Anthony Davis and (to a lesser extent) Russell Westbrook are two players that can dominate a game but without LeBron, they’re mostly stats lost amongst the ether of blown leads and too many frustrating losses. The hope is that LeBron and Co. can remain healthy for the second half of the season or that the Lakers can somehow make other teams forget how much they hate the Lakers long enough to make a few trades to bolster the roster. No matter what direction the team goes though one thing is certain: they will only go as far as a 37-year-old LeBron James in his 19th NBA season will take them.
That the team is counting on LeBron to continue to lead the way at this level at his age and with over 60,000 career minutes played is a pretty bold ask but all signs point to LeBron remaining physically dominant on the court when he does play is absolutely incredible.
There was a lot of hyperbole throughout the league when LeBron came into the league but over the years, the feats he has achieved and abilities he’s displayed have shifted the hyperbole to admiration and reverence. Some fans will still dislike him for any number of reasons too long to get into now, but love him or hate him, any NBA fans should appreciate greatness while they have the chance to. There will never be another LeBron James in the NBA (technically this isn’t true if Bronny James makes the league) so it’s important that fans appreciate every dunk, every chase-down block, every step back three while they can because once he retires, there will be a LeBron James-sized hole in the league that will never be filled.