By LeBron James’ impossible standards, he didn’t have a great first season with the Los Angeles Lakers. The indestructible GOAT got hurt. A perennial Finals attendee, James didn’t even crack the playoffs. And his numbers dropped off, even though he still averaged 27 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, just less efficiently than normal.
Was he washed? Was this the start of his decline? Was the King’s reign coming to an end in real time?
The LeBron James of the first seven games of the 2019-20 season would like to politely wish you a happy taco Tuesday, and then tell you to piss off. He’s as confident and strong as ever, and absolutely rolling past opponents. He’s grabbing boards and going coast-to-coast against guys a decade younger and slamming dunks home. He’s backing down 20-somethings heading towards their prime, then shipping passes fading backwards to the ready hands of his three-point-shooting teammates. And maybe most importantly, he’s winning.
The Lakers are 6-1 with the best record in the NBA. By net rating, LA is the second-best team in the league, outscoring opponents by 9.33 points per 100 possessions (better than any team last season.) And they have the second-best defense in the league, trailing only the Utah Jazz.
In the wise words of one of our most important sports figures, Rihanna, “King is still King, b****.”
James has been MVP-worthy, still
There are only 10 players in the league older than James, who in his 17th season will turn 35 years old, but he’s still producing like an on-the-rise phenom. James is averaging a near-triple-double with 26 points, a career-best 11 assists and eight rebounds along with nearly two steals and a block per game. He’s shooting just 48 percent from the field and 29 percent from three-point range, but with Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard there to clean up his misses (5.3 offensive rebounds combined per game), the efficiency drop-off hasn’t been felt. James is armored with teammates who are producing what’s expected from them.
James is still the catalyst for every single thing the Lakers do. He’s not only leading the entire league in assists, but in points created from assists. He’s posted triple-doubles in three consecutive games, the first in purple and gold to do that since Magic Johnson.
James of course has Davis in town to supplement him, and The Brow is helping free him up to do whatever he pleases. But James’ finding a ton of success on pure force and effort. After years of accepting the label of a lazy defender in the regular season, James has been active as hell chasing down blocks, taking charges and swiping away steals. Behind Davis and Howard, James has a share of the Lakers’ third-best individual defensive rating.
LeBron has been great on defense this year
— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) November 6, 2019
And he’s looked strong. He might not be as quick as everyone anymore, but his body has aged into a brick-wall on wheels that everyone sort of bounces off of. How many other players can out-muscle an entire defense in a 94-foot escapade from rim to rim?
James is loving every minute of this season
For the first time in a long time, James isn’t answering questions about a struggling offense, or paltry defense, or if his team should trade for another star. James is playing a complete game, hyping up his teammates (maybe too aggressively, sorry Alex Caruso), and winning again.
Being his corny dad self, he’s going with the hashtag #WashedKing on Twitter and Instagram to take shots at all who claimed his demise too soon. It’s only been seven games, but what a damn start to the season.
LeBron is still LeBron.