In a win over Golden State on Saturday, 37-year-old LeBron James delivered a game for the aged, tallying a whopper-sized, double-double of 56 points and 10 rebounds, to become just the fourth player in NBA history to score at least 50 points after the age of 37.
LeBron James came into the NBA bigger, stronger, and faster than just about anyone we had seen before. His 6-foot-8 frame masked a dynamic talent who didn’t waste much time in establishing himself as a once-in-a-generation talent.
But in what should be the twilight days of an illustrious, Hall-of-Fame bound NBA career, a time when we spend more time reminiscing over what he used to do well instead of what he can do now, James recently reminded us all how he has defied Father Time for most of his career.
So why should now be any different?
James recently scored 56 points in leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 124-116 win over Golden State on Saturday.
He became the first player in NBA history to tally a 50-point game before his 21st birthday and after his 35th birthday.
The only players in NBA history on the north side of 37 calendar flips to score at least 50 points, are Michael Jordan; Kobe Bryant; and Jamal Crawford.
"Our guys were following me off the floor tonight going into the locker room, and they asked me, 'How does it feel to score 56?'" James told reporters after the game. "I said, 'Right now, I don't give a damn about the 56. I'm just happy we got a win.' That's just literally the first thing that came to my mind."
And that is what makes this latest addition to the LeBron legacy so unique from previous historical achievements.
In the past, his accomplishments were baked into what matters most: winning.
And that is the one thing his current team is not doing much of, relative to the many teams he has played for in the past.
The Lakers aren’t just losing games. They have become must-ignore TV despite national networks’ insistence that we watch this wretched wreck of a team play.
The win over the Golden State Warriors snapped a four-game losing streak, but the Lakers (28-35) remain a below-.500 team.
The Lakers’ struggles have come in what has been one of James’ best seasons statistically.
James’ 29.4 points per game average, following the win over Golden State, is his highest scoring average since he averaged a cool 30 points per game during the 2007-2008 NBA season.
That season, James became the youngest player in NBA history to score 10,000 career points (23 years, 59 days), bettering the previous mark set by the late Kobe Bryant (24 years, 193 days).
Then with the Cleveland Cavaliers, James led them to a fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference, and led them to the second round of the playoff before losing to the eventual NBA champion Boston Celtics.
So as it stands now, fans of James are witnessing him in this basketball vortex spitting out some great individual play, that’s within the framework of him doing it with one of the worst teams he’s ever played for.
And that is what makes what James is doing now, so hard to fully appreciate.
In past years, his stellar play gave a glimpse into what he could do to elevate the play of those around him and just as important, give his team a chance to compete with the best of the best.
That’s not happening this year, folks.
He is surrounded by players who like James, have already played their best basketball with little to no room for growth or improvement. But unlike James, their games have deteriorated to the point where they provide very little support to James’ basketball brilliance while reminding us all how uniquely gifted a talent James is.
He’s delivering an MVP-like performance this season while his star-studded teammates are struggling to even compete with the best players who in many instances, are a decade or so younger.
James is the same man who invested heavily before it became the in-thing to do, in the upkeep and maintenance of his body, a smart move that has prolonged a basketball career that’s showing very few signs of slowing down to where he’s not among the game’s best.
And with him proclaiming he wants to play with his son Bronny in the NBA, something that can’t happen until at the earliest 2024, that means he’ll have to be able to continue playing for at least three more years.
The idea of anyone playing in the NBA into their 40s is a long shot, even in this age of advanced technology to prolong a player’s career.
But we’re not talking about any old player.
We’re talking about LeBron James, the one player whose game continues to keep Father Time at bay.