LeBron James has topped 40 points plenty of times, but Monday was a special occasion for a number of reasons. It was the first time he'd done so this season, and by hitting a total of 46 points, it was the second-most he had ever scored as a Laker. It was also the most he has ever scored against his original team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Monday in particular was a special occasion for the Lakers. It is the last game they will play before the first anniversary of Kobe Bryant's death, and sure enough, James became the oldest Laker to score 40 points in a game since Bryant did it in his 60-point farewell performance in 2016.
Bryant's death is already on the team's mind as the anniversary nears. Lakers coach Frank Vogel revealed Monday that he has given the team Tuesday off to reflect as they see fit. On Wednesday, they will play in Philadelphia, Bryant's hometown, in what will surely be an emotional affair. But Monday gave the Lakers a welcome distraction, a chance to celebrate the greatness of their current leader. James was sensational from the opening tip to the final buzzer. He scored 17 points in the first quarter, and then, in an even more impressive frame, outscored the entire Cavaliers roster 21-19 in the fourth.
James impressed in virtually every area. He finished the night with eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks. One of those blocks was particularly impressive, reminding the world just how much he still has left in his legs even at 36.
And then there was the shooting, a newer feature in LeBron's repertoire. He is now up to over 40 percent on the season and is on pace to set a new career-high. He even went back to a recent favorite of his, the logo shot.
It was yet another gem in a season full of them for James. The victory moved the Lakers up to 10-0 on the road and kept them atop the Western Conference despite a slow start from Anthony Davis. But James has been the constant in Los Angeles, just like Bryant was for so many years. It's only fitting that one of his best games in purple and gold would come with a connection to one of Bryant's, especially given how close we are to the anniversary.