LeBron James is in Year 18 of his incredible NBA career, and yet some people still haven't learned not to give him any extra motivation by making him mad during a game. The Cavaliers -- LeBron's former franchise -- received that lesson Monday night, after James went off for 26 points in the fourth quarter to carry the Lakers to a win and improve his record against the Cavaliers to 15-1.
To understand what fueled the sudden outburst in the final frame of action that led LeBron to become the oldest Lakers player ever to put up 40 or more points in a game, we'll have to go back to the end of the third quarter. After LeBron missed a game-tying, mid-range jumper at the buzzer, someone caught his attention sitting along the baseline . As he continued to stare the person down for a few seconds while walking back to the bench, LeBron shook his head in an "OK, I'll show you" manner.
We know what happens next: four made 3-pointers, including one from the Cavaliers' oversized logo at center court, easy layups while cutting through the defense like a machete and a pair of steals and assists for good measure. After the game, LeBron said the person he was staring down courtside after missing that final shot in the third quarter was a Cavaliers executive who gave him just enough reason to go off in the fourth.
"I felt like he was just a little bit too excited about seeing me miss," James told reporters. "He was really excited about me missing that shot. A little bit more extra than I would have liked. But he's got to root for his team, obviously. And he was, he showcased that. So I knew I had another quarter, and the fourth quarter's my favorite."
LeBron didn't name the executive who he was talking about, but it was reportedly Jason Hillman, the Cavaliers basketball chief of staff, who was overly excited when LeBron's shot didn't go in, per ESPN's Dave McMenamin.
Unfortunately for the Cavs, they had to feel the brunt of LeBron's heightened motivation in a game that looked like it could go either way until the fourth quarter started.
"You take your hat off to him," Cavs coach JB Bickerstaff said after the game. "There's a reason why he is who he is and he's accomplished all the things that he's accomplished. If he's making shots like that you pat him on the butt."
LeBron's play this season not only has the Lakers atop the Western Conference with the best record in the league (14-4), but he's also arguably the frontrunner for MVP so far this season, averaging 25.2 points, 7.9 rebound and 7.4 assists while not missing a single game so far.