LeBron James has entertained NBA fans on Christmas Day nearly his entire career, with a few memorable performances taking place at Staples Center and at the expense of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Although Christmas is a marquee date on the NBA schedule — and a driving force to a quick turnaround for the 2020-21 season — the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic meant Lakers fans could only watch the four-time champion lead the team to a 138-115 victory over the Dallas Mavericks from the comfort of their sofas this year.
The Lakers bounced back from Opening Night loss to the L.A. Clippers in style, setting the tone for the night straight from tipoff. Three minutes into the matchup, James sent a flashy lob pass to Anthony Davis towering over Tim Hardaway Jr. before he hammered it down.
Lakers fans saw the 16-time All-Star finish similar plays for rival teams on Christmas Day in the past, including a couple of alley-oops dished out by former Miami Heat teammate Dwayne Wade in 2013.
In the end, Miami beat the Kobe Bryant-less Lakers 101-95 at the jam-packed Staples Center. “Being at Staples Center for Christmas is an unbelievable feeling,” James said.
“Being able to have the correlation of me catching lobs from D-Wade in the past and being able to throw lobs to A.D. is definitely a blessing.”
James said Christmas Day games have a different feel to them than Opening Night matchups, which he likened to “the first day of school.” On the contrary, he said, Dec. 25 showdowns are like “a day of giving” filled with excitement and a special holiday atmosphere.
For that reason, James added, he particularly missed the presence of Lakers fans in the arena this year. “[It’s] not the same without the Laker faithful, without the fans, celebrity row, without the bright lights,” the soon-to-be-36-year-old pointed out.
“It’s just strictly basketball, which is fine, but our game is entertainment as well and when you’re out there you hope to entertain people live. Hopefully we know we’re making a mark while they’re watching the game.”
James jokes about airballed free throw against Mavericks
Apart from the spectacular James-Davis alley-oop, Lakers fans also missed the opportunity to watch live the former Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers star airballing a free throw in the third quarter.
After the game, James humorously said he could try fixing his free-throw shooting by drinking more wine, which he had previously joked he would use to treat his sprained ankle.
“I said the other night when I drink the wine goes straight down to the left side of my body,” James noted. “Tonight, I shot the free throw with my right hand, so it did not have bad side effects.
“I’m still going to drink some wine. If I can shoot it down the right side of my body, maybe it will help my free throws and give me a little bit more strength to where it doesn’t hit absolutely nothing. Maybe I need to drink upside down, vampire style. We’ll see.”
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