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LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers is turning 35 this December. He is also competing in his 17th season, and coming off his first major injury. Yet he is still playing at an extremely high level. LeBron has been playing so well, in fact, that NBA great-turned ESPN analyst Scottie Pippen thinks The King is in his prime.
“I played for a while in this league, and I know when you get to that age, you are in your prime, and LeBron James right now is in the prime age of his career,” Pippen stated in ESPN’s The Jump. “He is managing his body better, he is managing his minutes, and he is managing his possessions on the basketball floor… That is what I see in LeBron James right now… He is managing his moments on the court and picking his time to turn it on.”
Pippen seems to have a point. Last season LeBron was putting up 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 7.1 assists for the Purple and Gold. His stellar play, though, was interrupted by a groin strain, which he suffered in a Christmas Day showcase against the Golden State Warriors. The injury sidelined The King for 17 consecutive games (the most he has missed in a season). It was reported that a full recovery was expected to take at least 6 months. But LeBron returned to action after only 6 weeks of rehab, although he didn’t look quite right for the rest of last season.
This season, a fully healthy and rested LeBron is averaging 25.8 points (11th in the NBA), 7.3 rebounds, and 11.0 assists (1st) per game. He is looking engaged in defense, too, and has not missed a game yet. Put simply, LeBron is, with apologies to Anthony Davis, the best player in the league-leading, title-chasing Lakers.
Then again nothing LeBron does seems surprising anymore at this point. He remains a game-changer, a player whose mere presence turns a team into a postseason contender. That’s exactly what happened when LeBron returned to Cleveland in 2014, as he led his hometown Cavs to three finals appearances and a title in 2016.
The same happened when LeBron signed with the Lakers two summers ago. He instantly made the Purple and Gold title favorites. bwin Basketball News reported that LeBron’s decision also tilted the NBA’s balance of power even more in favor of the Western Conference. That has continued this year, with The King’s Lakers leading the way at the season’s quarter mark. The Lakers’ 16-2 start, according to a CBS Sports power rankings, is the best start for any LeBron-led team.
LeBron’s fingerprints, obviously, are all over the Lakers’ fast start. He is playing some brilliant basketball. As Pippen said, LeBron is looking like a player in his prime. If he keeps it up the Purple and Gold might just win championship number 17.
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