When the Los Angeles Lakers took on the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night, LeBron James was closing one year and starting another. It was the final game of the 2021 calendar year and the first since he turned 37 years old. He put on a show for the special occasion.
On the very first possession of the game, he came off a dribble hand-off and buried a deep 3-pointer. The next time down he got Damian Lillard on a switch and bullied him on the block for an and-one. From there, both he and the Lakers were off. The Lakers never trailed, as LeBron finished with 43 points, 14 rebounds and four assists while shooting 16-for-26 from the field.
This was the first 40-point game of the season for LeBron and made him the oldest player to put up 40 points and 10 rebounds in a game since Michael Jordan pulled off the feat as a 40-year-old back in 2003. LeBron also became the oldest player ever to put up 40 points and 14 rebounds.
A day after his 37th birthday...@KingJames WENT OFF for 43 PTS, 14 REB and 5 3PM in 29 minutes to lead the @Lakers to the win 🔥 pic.twitter.com/UZO4Lw39wJ— NBA (@NBA) January 1, 2022
"I literally try to prepare my mind and my body and my soul on how I can stay young in a young man's game," LeBron said. "Sometimes you do have to remind people that you can still do what you do at a high level, and I've just been blessed, very blessed and continue to put the work in. Because that's what it all boils down to. It boils down to putting the work in and everything else will take care of itself."
Those comments, and LeBron's big night, came after he acknowledged earlier this week that he's thought about retirement and knows he's "on the other side of the hill." But while that day may be coming, LeBron has no plans of stopping when he's "still playing at such a high level."
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It doesn't get much higher level than LeBron's performance against the Blazers on Friday. Thanks to LeBron, the Lakers picked up a much needed win as they try to get back on track. They've now won two of their last three games after a season-long five-game losing streak earlier this month. But despite the recent positive results, they're still under .500 at 18-19 and sit in seventh place in the Western Conference.