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On Jan. 23, 2018, LeBron James became the first player in NBA history with at least 30,000 career points, 7,000 career rebounds and 7,000 career assists. It barely took him a month to round up.
When he set up new Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Larry Nance Jr. for this jumper with 1:32 to go in regulation of Tuesday’s matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, James notched his 11th helper of the game. That gave him an even 8,000 for his career, and that — you guessed it — put him in yet another club with just one member:
That his latest record-setting helper came on a bucket that Cleveland desperately needed to tie the cellar-dwelling Nets late in the fourth quarter of a home game probably wasn’t quite how LeBron envisioned it going down. But while the shuffled-up post-deadline Cavs once again looked pretty shaky — especially on the defensive end, where D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and the rest of Kenny Atkinson’s band of like-size young playmakers just had their way — they were able to hold off the ever-pesky Nets down the stretch, getting just enough scoring to finish off a 129-123 win at Quicken Loans Arena.
Cleveland’s new additions all contributed. Nance posted a double-double off the bench, with 10 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes. Jordan Clarkson added 14 points, three rebounds and three assists, drilling a big 3-pointer with 1:04 to go. Rodney Hood chipped in 14 points and four rebounds, nailing a clutch and-one jumper over a good contest by Nets center Jarrett Allen to put Cleveland up two points with 40 seconds left. George Hill turned in his best game in a Cavs uniform, scoring 26 points on 9-for-17 shooting with five assists, three rebounds and three steals against just one turnover in 36 1/2 minutes.
As ever, though, the story was LeBron, who weathered multiple Nets defenders and a lot of contact on his way to the rim as he compiled another huge game: 31 point on 13-for-25 shooting, 12 rebounds (four on the offensive glass), 11 assists and only one turnover in 39 minutes of work.
It was James’ 12th triple-double of the season, second only to Russell Westbrook among all NBA players in 2017-18 and one fewer than he had all of last year. It was also his fourth in the month of February alone, wrapping up a month in which James averaged 27 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.5 assists … which is the kind of thing that hasn’t happened very often in NBA history:
And which definitely doesn’t happen much when you’re on the wrong side of 30:
It’s not as if we necessarily needed new reminders of just how special a talent James is, and just how rare his combination of size, skill, speed, production and longevity really are in the annals of NBA history. And yet, he just seems to keep presenting them, night after night, week after week, month after month and year after year.
“I’ve always prided myself on being a triple-threat player,” James said during a post-game interview with Fox Sports Ohio’s Allie Clifton. “I’m not a scorer, but I can put the ball in the hole. I rebound the ball to help my teammates, offensively and defensively. And I love to get my guys involved.
“I don’t like to be compared to anybody. I feel like I’m a one of a kind player. I’m the type of player the league has never seen before and I take a lot of pride in that, I want to continue that in the near future.”
It’ll be a while before we see LeBron round up again; thousands of boards and dimes don’t pile up overnight, so getting over 9,000 might take a minute or two. For now, we’ll just have to take a moment to appreciate the rarefied air James already occupies, all by his lonesome.
“With the long list of so many great players that have come through this league, in the history of this league, for me to be the only [person] in a category, I think it’s pretty cool,” James said after the game, according to Steve Herrick of The Associated Press. “It’s pretty cool.”
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