LeBron James is playing at an unprecedented level for a player in his 20th season partly because he has no choice. The LA Lakers are barely surviving amidst a slew of injuries, particularly to superstar big man Anthony Davis.
Since turning 38 years old on Dec. 30, “King James” has been in sizzling form as he tries to keep the Lakers afloat. Although he has sat out a few games here and there due to left ankle and foot soreness, he’s mostly been mind-boggling.
When asked about the load he has to carry with Davis still trying to return from an injury, James had this to say:
“That’s my job description… it calls for me to go out and be extraordinary at times. It is what it is.”
LeBron James is averaging 34.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.3 assists in nine games since turning 38. Nobody in the history of the game has come close to the numbers he has been putting up at his age. It seems like he’s setting a record almost after every game with the way he has been playing.
Michael Jordan, via the same age as the barometer, averaged 24.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.5 steals in 49 games. James’ production would have to significantly decrease in the next 40 games for Jordan’s stats to creep closer. It’s very unlikely to happen, though.
LeBron James is stubbornly willing the Lakers to at least get a play-in spot after having vowed never to miss the playoffs again last season. Just how much he has ramped up his game can be seen in his scoring average.
The four-time NBA champ averaged 25.8 PPG in October and November. He played 14 games in December and raised his scoring output to 31.2 PPG. His 34.9 PPG this month is second only to Joel Embiid’s 35.1 PPG. Embiid is also 10 years younger than James.
“King James” told the LA Lakers that “God gave me wide shoulders for a reason” following the death of the legendary Kobe Bryant. The franchise has needed every bit of that bravado and strength to keep them competitive for a postseason push.
The LA Lakers could ultimately pay the price of asking too much out of 38-year-old LeBron James
LeBron James is averaging 36.3 minutes per game this season. Since turning 38 years old, he’s been playing 37.8 MPG. Darvin Ham admitted recently that James’ minutes and usage are a concern but they can’t just scale down both.
In last night’s stunning upset over the Memphis Grizzlies, James looked visibly gassed as early as the third quarter. He played 37 minutes and finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks. It took him 21 shots to get his scoring output.
The soon-to-be 19x All-Star also had his impact with his playmaking, rebounding and even his presence alone changed the Lakers’ dynamics. Maybe his shots just didn’t fall as expected or maybe he’s starting to show the wear and tear of carrying his team.
Anthony Davis’ injury is reportedly more delicate and precarious than believed. If he misses more time or if he’s not 100% healthy, the Lakers could end up running LeBron James to the ground.