LeBron James returned to the court on Friday night after missing 20 games with an ankle sprain. Unlike his Lakers teammate Anthony Davis, who returned from a significant Achilles injury last week, there was no easing back in for LBJ. Go figure.
Despite making it look easy with 16 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and a block in 32 minutes, James went on record after the game with a rather pessimistic outlook for his future.
LeBron said trying to return from the high-ankle sprain made him “more stressed” than he’s ever been. pic.twitter.com/OaPqxYhhc3
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 1, 2021
Speaking with ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, James suggested that we may never see the same version of The King that we grew used to:
“I knew I wasn’t going to get back to 100%. It’s impossible. I don’t think I will ever get back to 100% in my career.”
Wowza! That’s quite a statement from the 36-year-old James, easily one of the best to ever play the game of basketball.
In a way, this statement could be true. LeBron certainly isn’t getting any younger. A performance decline is inevitable sooner or later. Perhaps this is his way of pre-conditioning everyone for the decline that he knows is coming. After all, he did miss a potential game-winner in the closing seconds last night.
LeBron legit just said fuck it pic.twitter.com/uyxidnzH8X
— LegendOfWinning (@LegendOfWinning) May 1, 2021
Dare I say that was some questionable shot selection??
All that being said, this statement also comes in the wake of an injury that many believe was blown way out of proportion. The compressed nature of the 2020-21 NBA regular season has led to star players sitting out more games than ever. The term “load management” was once only applicable to Kawhi Leonard. Nowadays, it’s simply a way of life across the Association.
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Even with both LeBron James and Anthony Davis sidelined for prolonged periods, the defending NBA Champion Lakers are still a top-five team in the Western Conference standings. Sure, it’s not as high as they ranked before LeBron stepped away for 20 games. That said, it’s more than sufficient enough to qualify for the postseason. And let’s be honest: that’s all the Lakers are really worried about.
LeBron back & doing LeBron things.
— NBA (@NBA) May 1, 2021
Are we really supposed to believe that LeBron just went through the most grueling injury and rehab of his life? Are we really supposed to believe that he could go from not being able to play to damn near posting a triple-double in over 30 minutes just days later??
If you’re asking me, the NBA has a major problem on its hands. Star players continue to dictate everything, right down to now deciding what games they play in.
But hey, LeBron James is back and the Lakers will be ready to contend for another championship. If both the league and star players are comfortable with their actions suggesting that the playoffs are all that matters, why is there an NBA regular season at all?