The highest-scoring postseason half of LeBron James’ unrivaled NBA career started the final game of his 20th NBA season.
After his Los Angeles Lakers were eliminated from the Western Conference finals in the first round, he asked how much longer he intended to pursue history as he closed out the evening.
On Monday night’s Game 4, James established a personal record with 31 points in the first half, but he missed two crucial jumpers in the closing seconds as the Denver Nuggets defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 113-111.
James, 38, finished with 40 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, and a ton of frustration after Los Angeles’ incredible late-season run came to an end with four straight losses. The NBA’s all-time leading scorer mentioned joining the Lakers for the upcoming season, but he also stated that he hasn’t made up his mind.
“We’ll see what happens going forward,” James said in the final answer of his postgame news conference. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I’ve got a lot to think about, to be honest. Just for me personally going forward with the game of basketball, I’ve got a lot to think about.”
According to Chris Haynes of TNT and Dave McMenamin of ESPN, James will allegedly think about retiring.
Although James has a $46.9 million deal with the Lakers for the upcoming season, he now has control over his own destiny after breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career scoring mark earlier this year. His play hasn’t greatly changed after 20 years in the NBA, but his health has gotten worse, especially in his shaky feet and ankles. He hasn’t previously indicated much personal conflict about finishing his deal with Anthony Davis.
“It’s all about availability for me and keeping my mind sharp, and things of that nature,” James said. “Being present on the floor, being present in the locker room and bus rides and plane rides, things of that nature. It’s challenging, for sure. It was a very challenging season for me, for our ballclub, and obviously we know whatever went on early on (in the Lakers’ 2-10 start to the season). It was cool, a pretty cool ride.”
James reportedly had the following conversation with ESPN following the conclusion of his news conference:
When you say you got to think about stuff, what thread should we be pulling on that?
“If I want to continue to play,” James said.
As in next year?
You would walk away?
“I got to think about it.”
James missed the final month of the regular season due to a foot injury, but he made up for it with a string of outstanding playoff games as the Lakers ousted reigning champion Golden State and defeated second-seeded Memphis. After Game 4, James’ irritation occasionally surfaced, so it didn’t really matter to him.
“I don’t like to say it’s a successful year, because I don’t play for anything besides winning championships at this point in my career,” James said. “You know, I don’t get a kick out of making a conference (finals) appearance. I’ve done it a lot, and it’s not fun to me to not be able to be a part of getting to the (NBA) Finals.”
Game 4’s first quarter saw James score 21 points in his NBA-record 282nd career playoff game. While playing almost the entire second half of a game that was on the line against the top-seeded Nuggets, he added 10 more points.
In the Lakers’ defeat in Game 4, LeBron James came close to a triple-double.
James, however, finished the second half with just nine points on 4-of-12 shooting, and he missed two open shots in the final minute. With 26 seconds left, he attempted an odd fallaway jumper that missed horribly, and Denver’s Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon stopped him from scoring on his final drive at the buzzer.
However, the first half was classic LeBron: in the highest-scoring playoff half of his career, which began in 2003 and has included four NBA championships, he made 11 of his 13 shots and blasted four 3-pointers without missing. James also received a technical foul for a physical altercation with Gordon as the two became locked up on the Lakers’ end of the floor. Gordon added four rebounds and four assists to his stat line.
James had previously had trouble in the series shooting outside the arc, going 3 for 19 in the first three games. In Game 4, he improved his shooting, and in the first period, his lob assist to Rui Hachimura that ended up in the hoop was given credit for a 3-pointer.
James already had the highest scoring average (33.5 points per game) in NBA history for players who had at least 10 such outings.
James is obviously considering his options after failing to capture a championship this year. His long-stated ambition to play an NBA season with his son, Bronny, who will be a freshman at USC this fall and couldn’t enter the league until the autumn of 2024 at the earliest, is a significant barrier to any retirement ideas.
“I guess I’ll reflect on my career when I’m done, but I don’t know,” James said when asked to assess his 20th season. “The only thing I concern myself with is being available to my teammates, and I don’t like the fact that I didn’t play as many games as I would have liked because of injury. That’s the only thing I care about, is being available to my teammates.”
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