LeBron James is currently in the midst of one of the greatest hot streaks in NBA history. ESPN's Tom Haberstoh has a great breakdown of just how brilliant James has been over the last five games, but here's the short version: He has scored 30 points or more and shot at least 60 percent from the field in five straight games, making 49 of his last 65 shots. In other words, LeBron James is tearing through the league at an unimaginably efficient pace. He's in God Mode right now.
Statistically, he's dominating, but there's more to his play. Yes, numbers like 32-36 on shots from inside 15 feet and 9-14 from three-point land are jarring and sublime, but they don't speak to just how much fun it has been to watch LeBron James play basketball lately.
Each NBA season is marked by the ebb and flow of its star players' dominance. One week will belong to Kobe Bryant and his methodical post game, and the next will see Dirk Nowitzki—one-legged and falling softly away from the rim—ruling the league. But there's a difference between what James is doing and the dominant runs we've seen from other league stars. When other players get hot, their play takes on a certain exploitative quality. When Kobe Bryant posts up and hits fall-away, baseline jumpers over and over again, it doesn't feel like he is creating new possibilities, but rather zeroing in on one particular angle of the game and putting a strangle hold on it. The same can be said of Carmelo Anthony when his elbow jumper and bullying drives to the rim can't be stopped, or of James Harden when he's drawing fouls on every foray into the paint. One can't help but feel a sense of scripted inevitability when one of those guys catches the ball during a hot streak. Here it comes, that same shot that nobody can stop him from making right now. Each made basket feels like a tightening of the screws, a narrowing of the game itself.
That's not what it has felt like to watch James this week. Whenever the ball found its way to James during yesterday's win against the Lakers, it brought unlimited possibilities along with it. He's dominated not with predictability and method but with utter creativity. He hit jump shots, took over in the post, threw no-look passes with a deft flick of the wrist, converted alley-oops, led fast breaks, and twisted up his opponents with bouncing, exuberant crossovers that were followed by automatic drives to the basket. And it all worked. Everything he did brought his team closer to victory. Whereas others choose to take over a game by burrowing farther and farther into the same niche, James chooses to play with an outward sensibility, leaving his mark on the game from every possible angle.
Do yourself a favor and take the time to watch this highlight reel of James's performance during yesterday's game. It's five solid minutes of him demolishing the Lakers, and you'll never see him take the same shot twice. He is everywhere—just making it up as he goes along—his greatness filling every corner of the court.
That's what makes watching LeBron James such a satisfying experience. He's not here to beat the game into submission, but to simply play it better—and less scripted—than anyone else on the court. The NBA is LeBron's show now.