LeBron James put on a show in Cleveland, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 131-120 win over the Cavaliers on Monday.
James recorded his sixth triple-double of the season, putting up 38 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists on a particularly busy night — the 37-year-old went 17-for-29 from the field, tied for the second-most shot attempts he made in a single 2021-22 game.
The four-time NBA champion always emphasizes how much returning to Cleveland, where he started his career and won the 2016 NBA title, means to him. Perhaps that inspired his nearly 40-point triple-double, as James said he’s aware he won’t have many more opportunities to play in front of Cleveland fans.
“Absolutely. I know that my games playing here are very limited in my career, so hopefully I’m healthy enough to put on a uniform to go out and play and play at an effective level in front of these fans because they’ve given me so much for 11 years when I was here for my first stint and for my second stint,” he said.
“And also, to be able to be in front of my family and friends, for them to drive up 40 minutes from my hometown of Akron, it means a lot to me.”
James explained his bond with Cleveland fans remains strong because he has spent over half his life playing basketball there — having grown up in Akron, a town less than an hour drive away.
“[T]hey’ve seen me pretty much my whole life play basketball,” he said. “Either seen me or heard about it like ‘OK, who’s this kid that lives 40 minutes south of here?’ that’s playing ball at the age of 9, 10, 11, 12, who is this LeBron kid? They either drove down to see me or came up to see me in Cleveland when I played in AAU tournaments, or when I got to high school, they saw me play in high school games in the Cleveland area.
“So they’ve seen me or heard about me for quite a while now, for almost 30 years since I picked up a basketball in recreation. So that’s the difference between here and every other arena.”
Anthony thinks he and James need to ‘cherish’ record-breaking moments
The Lakers currently have two players on the roster who rank in the top-15 on the all-time scoring list: James and Carmelo Anthony. The former passed Karl Malone to move up to second in the loss against the Washington Wizards last week. Meanwhile, Anthony needs 374 points to surpass Shaquille O’Neal and enter the top-10.
Although he maintains that wins take precedence over individual stats, Anthony thinks such milestones need to be celebrated.
“Now, [James] passing Karl Malone on the scoring list. Myself having an opportunity to move up a notch on the scoring list, No. 9 or 8 or something like that, these are moments that we got to cherish. We shouldn’t take these moments for granted,” he said.
“I won’t allow him to take these moments for granted because we don’t get moments like this often, so we got to take advantage of that. We just got to celebrate the accomplishment. I think so much when you are dealing with sports it’s all about competing and wins and losses, but at the end of the day, you have a milestone like that, you have to celebrate that.”
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