LeBron James Makes History, Looks Miserable Doing It
11:23 AM EST on January 25, 2023
Even after 20 years in the NBA, LeBron James still rules. In Tuesday night's game against the Clippers, James became the first player in league history to score 40-plus points against every NBA team, dropping 46 on the Lakers' cross-arena rivals. Because he's LeBron James, he wasn't content with just setting that mark; he also hit a career-high nine three-pointers during the nominal Lakers home game, and mixed in his usual assists (seven) and rebounds (eight).
Oh, and the Lakers lost, badly, dropping down to the 13th seed in the Western Conference courtesy of a 133-115 final score.
This is just how things go for LeBron James now. The greatest player of his generation is now stuck on Lakers team (partly of his own creation) that's so bad that it can't even be carried to victory by vintage LeBron performances. James is a smart player, perhaps the smartest that the NBA has ever seen, so he understands better than anyone how badly his skills are currently being wasted. Just look at this poor guy:
That is the face and body language of a man who put up 46 points, just eight days after dropping 48 against the hapless Houston Rockets in a much-closer-than-was-necessary win. LeBron James is somehow still LeBron James at the freshly minted age of 38, barging his way to the rim, hitting spot-up threes, and generally being the unstoppable freight train that he has always been, and yet none of that was enough to stop the Lakers from getting blown out last night.
God, he even looks miserable in that YouTube thumbnail! If you're one of the many, many Lakers haters, this is, to quote a former Minnesota Timberwolves general manager, manna from heaven. Doubly so if two decades of domination have soured you on LeBron James as a player. If, on the other hand, you would rather see him with the chance of doing this on the biggest stages once more, perhaps for the last time, well, this season couldn't really be going any worse:
In a way, Tuesday's beatdown at the hands of the Clippers is the perfect encapsulation of James's Lakers tenure. Take away the bubble title—one should not do that in earnest, both because it was a real title and because the mighty Miami Heat made the Finals, and I need that, personally—and Los Angeles has finished 10th, 11th, and 7th, during the LeBron era, with the latter ending in a six-game first-round exit against the Phoenix Suns in 2020-2021. The pairing of James and Anthony Davis—remember him?—got the Lakers a title, but every other move made by the franchise since James came to town has flopped, ranging from horribly to Russell Westbrook.
The result of a half-decade of personnel malpractice has left LeBron James on an island, far away from relevance, where 46 points mean as little as if he had simply not shown up for work. Hell, he's averaging a ludicrous 35/9/7 line since the new year, and the Lakers have merely been average: 6-4 for the month, with only a one-point win against the Grizzlies to really impress anyone. That win was also immediately overshadowed by the Shannon Sharpe of it all, which feels right given where the Lakers are right now.
Some good news is on the way for LeBron and the Lakers, at least: After missing six weeks, Davis should return on Wednesday night against the 14-33 San Antonio Spurs. More than any points or highlight plays, I'll be watching just to see if LeBron cracks a single smile among the nightmare of this season.