LeBron James celebrated his 36th birthday with a victory as the Los Angeles Lakers outlasted the San Antonio Spurs 121-107.
Although he was ejected, at the helm for the Spurs of course is head coach Gregg Popovich, who, much like James among his peers, is considered one of if not, the greatest head coach in NBA history.
James led the way for the Lakers in the first of consecutive meetings with the Spurs, finishing with 26 points, eight assists and five rebounds. James also extended his record streak of consecutive games scoring in double-digits to 1,000.
Popovich on the other hand didn’t make it through the contest, picking up two technical fouls and being ejected in the first half. But before any of that took place, Popovich took some time to praise James for his longevity in this league.
Speaking to reporters prior to the game, Popovich credited James’ ability to remain among the league’s elite and his commitment to excellence, among other attributes, via Mark Medina of the USA Today:
“It’s a tribute to both his intelligence level and his tenacity, his character and his commitment to excellence. When you combine those things, you get what we see in LeBron James after all these years. He looks pretty much like when he first came into the league. He deserves a lot of credit for being the consummate professional, using every technique that he can and being on the cutting edge of things. His mental state along with his physical state really makes him very special. Probably more than anybody that has played the game.”
There are very few people better with words than Popovich as he can make jokes at people’s expense, but also perfectly sum up things as well. There have been a number of players with outstanding physical gifts, but very few pair it with the intelligence and work ethic that James also possesses.
While the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kobe Bryant were still excellent players late into their careers, nobody has ever looked as good as LeBron does in Year 18. As Popovich said, James is nearly the same as when he entered the league, and that is because of not just his physical makeup, but also his mental fortitude.
LeBron feels ‘fortunate’ to play on birthday
For James himself, just being able to play on his birthday was special. “For me to be rounding the base at 36, playing the game I love to play, being with a great team and organization, with a great family, great friends and support system, it makes it a lot greater than the alternative,” James said.
“Just very blessed and very honored. I’m happy to be doing what I love to do.”
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