For an NBA great like LeBron James, there are small moments on the court that define their greatness as much as any statistic, and when they happen, they tend to transcend the game in which they are moored, becoming emblematic of all their achievements.
James enjoyed such a moment on Saturday in his LA Lakers’ 107-97 win over the Houston Rockets, as he pivoted past the defense and pulled off an incredible 360 reverse layup, before falling to the floor where he lost track of the ball.
But “the fans let me know that I made it,” he later told reporters. “And then my teammates, by them running on the floor or whatever they did down there, allowed me to see it on the Jumbrotron because it stopped the play because of the technical.”
As the team celebrated wildly along with the crowd, some even holding their heads in disbelief, Christian Wood received a tech for coming onto the floor from the bench in his excitement.
Social media too exploded with disbelief and awe; one user called him an “artist,” others described it as “unreal” or “insane.” As of Sunday morning, the moment had received more than 1.2 million views on the NBA’s X, previously Twitter, account alone.
But for all the disbelief, there was a sense of conforming to normality. After all, even at almost 39 and in his 21st NBA season, LeBron is still LeBron, his presence on the court still able to transform games and generate column inches.
And like the true greats, he can transform his image on the court through moments like this, revealing himself to be LeBron the icon with all his glittering achievements as well as simply LeBron the player.
“That’s right up there, it’s what you come to expect from him,” coach Darvin Ham told reporters afterwards. “But the most impressive thing is at what stage in his career he’s doing it in. He’s breaking barriers it seems every day.”
James added 16 points and seven assists, while Anthony Davis poured in 27 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Lakers to the win.
“It was a crazy shot,” Davis said. “At this point in his career he’s done everything that he literally just goes out and tries stuff and sees what works.”
James later was embroiled in a tense encounter with Rockets head coach Ime Udoka, who was ejected afterwards.
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