It wasn't just the season-high point total; it was how he got them, by making 17 of his 25 shots, including a perfect 15 for 15 in the restricted area. LeBron James set up shop in that little semi-circle throughout the Miami Heat's Thursday night road win over the Los Angeles Lakers, both in transition opportunities created by the 20 L.A. turnovers that Miami forced and in repeated half-court rim runs around whichever Laker defender happened to be standing in front of him — Earl Clark, Metta World Peace, Dwight Howard or even reinvigorated defensive specialist Kobe Bryant.
It wasn't just the assists; it was what they led to, with five creating dunks, layups or open 3-pointers, and how he delivered them, like this ridiculous curling two-hand whiplash bounce pass to a cutting Dwyane Wade in the first quarter:
It wasn't just the rebounds, although those definitely help on a Heat team that — due in part to acceptable-loss/speed-over-size decisions made in lineup selection by coach Erik Spoelstra and in part to Chris Bosh's dwindling rebounding numbers at the center position (though he did grab six last night). Or the steals, although it's nice that two of them led to dunks. Or the defensive hustle, although that did result in him beating Bryant to a loose ball with the game knotted at 83 and the five minutes left in the third, barrel-rolling his way back to his feet, sprinting down the court and feeding Ray Allen for a wing triple that put the Heat back up three in a nip-and-tuck fourth quarter.
(That defensive hustle also resulted in this, which was pretty dope, although it still led to two Lakers points:)
It's that it all happens together, at the same time — and not only when his team needs him the most, but just about every night at this point.
Last night, LeBron James scored 39 points, dished eight assists, grabbed seven rebounds, snared three steals, turned the ball over just twice in 42 minutes despite doing the lion's share of Miami's ball-handling (especially in the fourth quarter), extinguished a red-hot Bryant (10 points early in the fourth, three in the final five-plus minutes after James started checking him) and led his team to a win ... and, while we were all aware we were watching something pretty awesome happening, we've also become increasingly aware that this is just the way things are now. LeBron James just is going to do this.
And it's not just that this is happening; it's that we got to see how it happened, and enjoy where it goes from here.
Top video via the NBA; bottom two videos via @cjzero.
- Sports & Recreation