Monday, March 9, 2020

Long May He Reign

Wall Street Journal - "LeBron James: Steady in a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"
By Jason Gay

"One of these days, James will slow down. He will lose a step, maybe two steps, and it will be jarring and melancholy. We don’t like to see our legends slow down. But all of them slow down. Bodies defy us. Age catches up. Them’s the rules.

It looked like it might be happening last year. James’s first season with the Los Angeles Lakers was a bust; his undermanned, poorly assembled team was staggering toward the finish. James had already lost a chunk of time—17 games—to a groin injury, the longest stretch he’d ever missed. As March wound down, L.A. shut him down for the rest of the season.

Maybe this was it.

Nah. It was not it.

James has not statistically been the best basketball player in the league this season—that is Antetokounmpo, who is now sidelined with a knee injury which hopefully will be minor—but over the past week or so, he has very much re-asserted his grip on the fictional belt of Best Basketball Player on the Planet.


With apologies to Giannis, Kawhi Leonard, James’s teammate Anthony Davis, James Harden and Sabrina Ionescu, that player still very much is James, who is 35 years old and has played more minutes (48,295 through Sunday) than anyone currently in the league and all but seven players in NBA history.

James’s numbers are impressive—25.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, a league-leading 10.6 assists—but once more, his impact is his command, his ability to seize big games at critical moments. On Sunday versus Kawhi and the Clippers, on Friday versus Giannis and Milwaukee, versus recent opponents like Boston and Zion’s Pelicans, James continuously has, at critical junctures, asserted his will on the game, looking as dynamic and physical as ever. When James is at his best, basketball bends to accommodate his talent. And it’s been bending for him, a lot, lately.

Even if James isn’t your favorite, you have to shake your head and marvel at it. While it’s true the addition this season of Davis—a top NBA star, by every metric—gives the Lakers a massive and sometimes superior second threat, this very much remains James’s team. He is playing second chair to no one.

There’s also this: he’s doing this amid what is a surreal and stunned Lakers season due to the tragic death of franchise legend Kobe Bryant in late January. Such an event has the potential to undo a club, but the Lakers have continued to roll, using their grieving of Bryant as fuel. It’s here where James perhaps shines the most: as a leader, as the wizened veteran, as the rare high-profile athlete who is unafraid to think out loud."

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