Perhaps it’s a function of the fact that the Lakers started the season with some bad losses, or that he’s been banished to late-night television on the west coast, or that this clip exists, but before last night’s game between the Lakers and Blazers, it felt like LeBron James had yet to put any sort of mark on the season. It no longer feels like that.
It’s not that James’s season game log left much to be desired—scan it and you’ll see all the 27-10-11 and 32-8-14 sequences that have become the language that describe LeBron’s career—but we still hadn’t seen one of those LeBron games, the kind in which all of his powers are on full display for all four quarters and his opponents seem to spend 48 minutes backpedaling in desperation or cowering in fear. That’s the LeBron the Blazers had to deal with last night.
James finished the game with 44 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists, but more important than the finished product was how he went about creating it. His highlight reel from this game is absolutely brimming with quintessential LeBron James plays—dunks, humiliating blocks, one-man fast breaks, deep threes he has no business making, AI-generated passes—and for the first time this season it felt like James was playing with the kind of swagger that has always made it impossible to imagine him not leading any team he’s on to the NBA Finals. You will enjoy every moment of this nine-minute collection of plays he made last night:
Before the season started, the answer to the question of whether this Lakers team would actually be any good was a simple one: They have LeBron James, so of course they will be good. But those first 10 games seemed to suck some of the inevitability out of that statement, and all of sudden there were whispers about Luke Walton getting fired, and then Tyson Chandler was brought in as a scrap-heap well before the time of year when good teams start making such moves.
The answer to the question above feels a lot more true after games like last night. The Blazers were up 45-32 midway through the second quarter, and then they ran into LeBron. Over the final six and a half minutes of the quarter, he scored 11 points, dished out three assists, and grabbed four rebounds. He also blocked the life out of Damian Lillard at the rim and hit three triples, two of which were pull-ups from 28 feet on the last two Lakers’ possessions of the half. By the time the half was over, the Lakers were up 59-55.
Los Angeles has now won four games in a row, and their record, 8-6, is much less alarming than it was just a week ago. A few more wins like this and it will probably be safe to say that the Lakers are a good team. After all, they have LeBron James.