Never before has a player done so much, but it meant so little. Enter LeBron James.
On the surface, James has turned back the clock like never before in the NBA. At 37 years old — and in season 19 in the league — James, the Los Angeles Lakers star, is leading the league in scoring with exactly 30 points a game.
There’s only one problem. The Lakers stink at 31-43. Worse, James’ season for the ages has had little to no impact on winning. That’s the shocking part in watching this unfold.
It’s also the reason that James isn’t even really being considered for the league’s MVP award. More people think Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo are more likely to win the coveted award.
Those players aren’t just putting up big numbers, their teams are winning as well.
Without question, winning matters when you’re talking about the best player in the league for a season.
Sunday was another example that piling up stats doesn’t mean a lot if you don’t win.
James had 39 points, but the Lakers lost to the Pelicans in New Orleans, 116-108. In the game, James hurt his left ankle, but was able to finish.
“I mean, I have no idea how I finished the game, to be honest, after watching the replay. It’s pretty nasty,” said James to the media in N.O.
The only thing nastier was the game.
For the record, at one point, the Lakers led by 23 points. They had a 20-point advantage at the half. But ultimately, it didn’t matter because the Pelicans scored 41 points in the third quarter and came back for the victory.
The worst part is that it was an important game for the Lakers, a near-playoff game, if you will.
The Lakers are fighting to make the play-in tournament, just to get a chance to compete in the postseason.
Instead, the Lakers lost as they have a lot this season. The latest collapse dropped the Lakers to 10th in the Western Conference, a half-game back of the Pelicans. They are clinging to the final play-in spot by just one game over the San Antonio Spurs with eight games to go in the regular season.
It won’t be easy to hold onto that spot. Six of the final eight games are against teams with records over ,500.
With the type of season James is having, the Lakers should be better than this. It speaks volumes. But, then again, the Lakers don’t play a lick of defense, including James.
For sure, the loss of Anthony Davis has hurt the Lakers. He was supposed to be a part of L.A.’s Big 3, along with James and Russell Westbrook.
There were plenty who thought the Lakers had a shot at being the best team in the West and giving James another shot at a championship.
And before you give James an excuse for being without Davis, there is plenty of other talent on the squad. The Lakers should be able to win games in this league with James and Westbrook alone. Both are former league MVPs. You need two stars in this league to win. Three is a luxury.
Think about where the Pelicans are — in front of the Lakers. And they haven’t had their franchise player all season, Zion Williamson Zion hasn’t played a minute this season after he fractured a foot in the offseason.
Yet, they have been able to stay in the race without nearly the talent of the Lakers. That’s a huge vote against James to be considered as the MVP.
Also Embiid kept the Sixers thriving despite not playing with Ben Simmons, his second superstar, all season before he was dealt to the Nets for James Harden.
James has upped his game this season, but people have to stop pretending like everything is brand new and never happened before. We have seen this movie before, but it had a happy ending.
Michael Jordan led the league in scoring at 35. Not only that, but his team, the Chicago Bulls, also won the 1998 NBA championship. He also won his fifth MVP award that regular season.
It was because M.J. won, not just stuffed a stat sheet in a ton of meaningless games that ultimately didn’t matter.
And that’s the best way to describe James’ season.