Wizards Wallah: Watching The Evolution Of A New King Lebron James
Catch the latest updates of Lebron James turning into the King of Basketball. He is truly an inspiration for all.
Focus on Lebron James. See from afar, that prodigious high school basketball phenom, who turned into one of the greatest players of all-time in his 13 seasons (and running) in the NBA. Zoom closer, and see the player who returned to Cleveland in 2014 and delivered the long-suffering fanbase an NBA title in spectacular fashion in 2016. Just a few days ago, Lebron James was feted for this achievement by no less than President Barack Obama when he visited the White House with his championship-winning Cavs.
On Friday, a day after meeting the President, Lebron James, and the Cavaliers headed a few blocks southeast to the Verizon Center, where they faced their hosts, the Washington Wizards. I was there at this game too, watching from a high, eagle-eye, vantage point. And when I zoomed my gaze closer onto James, I saw a player whose greatest strength might actually be the ability to zone out all the other noise, shrug off the weight and dominate on the basketball court night in and night out.
All of us, including NBA mega-stars, are in a constant course of change and evolution. But this season, we may be seeing one of the most drastic evolutions of one of the game’s most public figures. Three championship rings into his career, with the all-important title for Cleveland, a host of personal records, and a slot reserved in basketball’s pantheon, Lebron James seems to have a new approach to this game; an outlook shaped through a mixture of his environment, circumstance, and maturity.
On-court, this evolution is most visible on Lebron James’s statistical output so far this season. It’s still early in the season, but King James is averaging his lowest scoring output (22.9 ppg) since his rookie season (20.9 ppg). But where he has stepped back in his own quest for scoring, he has stepped up in creating and filling up other roles for the deep and talented Cavaliers. Nine games into the season, he is averaging career-highs in assists (9.1) and rebounds (8.9). The Cavaliers have been near-perfect to start their title defense (8-1) and not even the distraction of the Mannequin Challenge with the Obamas on Thursday could stop them from taking care of the Wizards on Friday night, 105-94.
In 38 minutes of action, Lebron finished the game with 27 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, a couple of highlight-worthy blocks and a couple of easy steals. He has always been one of the game’s greatest-ever all-round players, but his influence on the game’s other aspects – outside of scoring – are now becoming more visible than ever. But he hasn’t been a slouch on the scoring end either. Lebron James scored 27 on this night with a commanding variety of lay-ups, mid-range, and three-point shots (3-for-4) and became the youngest player ever to cross the 27,000-point mark.
At 31, now in his 14th season,King James is no spring chicken anymore. Yet, watching him in person was a lesson in basketball subtext; he dominates the ball only where and when he’s fully needed and encourages his troops with defense, rebounding, and leadership off the ball. The Cavaliers have a lot of weapons now: Kyrie Irving as a blossoming scorer, Kevin Love to stretch the floor, J.R. Smith for the heat-check threes, Iman Shumpert for perimeter defense, Tristan Thompson to dominate the boards and a deep bench to back-up the starters. But zoom in closer and you’ll see Lebron James’s influence linking them all. He left Washington with an indelible DNA on the court and giving a hint of a player continuing to evolve towards further greatness.
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