With an ailing Kobe Bryant watching from the sidelines, the Los Angeles Lakers’ traditional Christmas Day game was lacking in star power, but that simply left more room to showcase the league’s main attraction.
LeBron James stands alone as the NBA’s premier performer and in Miami’s 101-95 victory over the Lakers on Wednesday James electrified the Staples Center as only he can.
By his own lofty standards it was a light day’s work for James, who finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists, but what he lacked in numbers he made up for in sheer brilliance.
Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA Today
“There’s entertainment value every time we go out there,” the 28-year-old James said of his approach to performing. “We’re entertainers as well [as basketball players]. It’s great people enjoy that.”
Wearing his special edition mint-shaded Christmas Nike shoes, James captivated the arena’s attention from the moment he bounced onto the court and began delivering his bag of holiday gifts in the form of crowd-pleasing highlights.
In the opening quarter alone, James flexed his muscles with a one-handed alley-oop that he threw down with such momentum that his lunging body knocked Lakers defender Nick Young beyond the baseline.
The four-time Most Valuable Player easily topped that in the second quarter where he trailed Dwyane Wade on a fastbreak, caught a pass off the backboard and slammed it with his left hand.
It was a mesmerizing sequence that left the crowd gasping.
Even NBA great Magic Johnson was taken with the play, tweeting: “The lob DWade threw to LeBron was one of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen!”
James himself expressed the desire to see the dunk again for a better understanding of what he had actually performed.
“I have to see it again to give a [good description],” he said. “It went off the glass and the only way I could catch it was with my left. I had to improvise.”
James only took 14 shots in the game, but most of them were memorable.
He has regularly displayed more discretion in shot-taking for two-time defending champions the Heat (22-6) this season and he entered Wednesday’s game making just a shade below 60 percent of his attempts from the field — an astounding number for a perimeter player.
“He’s been playing out of his mind,” said Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, who worked with James when he was an assistant coach with the US Olympic team. “He gets better every year. [Coaching him], sometimes it was like he was playing with a [toy] truck in the driveway. He’s just above everyone else.”
James’ showmanship was the best-case scenario for a matchup that had long lost its sizzle since the league scheduled it.
The Lakers are an annual participant in the NBA’s Christmas Day program, but their allure is based on their past and not their present.
Bryant is hobbled (left knee), as is veteran Steve Nash, and the current Los Angeles roster is one of middling overachievers.
The Lakers (13-16) showed a fighting spirit in taking an early lead and pulled to within two points in the final quarter, but James made a big three-point play, added a crucial assist, and finished his solo act on a winning note, and a thrilling one.
“It’s not as fun [to play] when Kobe’s not out there, let’s be honest, [but] I was excited to play on Christmas again. We wanted a good game, I think the NBA wanted a good game, too,” James said.
The NBA said was re-evaluating its training program in China following allegations of abuse of young players by local staff and harassment of foreign staffers at a facility in Xinjiang. The comments come after a report by ESPN that quoted unnamed American coaches as saying that Chinese coaches hit young players. One American coach who worked at a camp in Xinjiang complained of harassment by local police, the sports network said. “The allegations in the ESPN article are disturbing,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said in an e-mail statement on Thursday. “We ended our involvement with the basketball academy in Xinjiang in June
Taiwan Steel on Sunday grabbed three points with a narrow 1-0 win against Hang Yuan FC, to move into the No. 2 spot on the Taiwan Football Premier League (TFPL) log, while Taipower FC beat NTUS 2-0 to maintain first place. Taking advantage early in the match of opposition defenders who had not yet settled down, Taiwan Steel’s attacking trio of Wu Chun-ching, Marc Fenelus from the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Benchy Astama from Haiti pushed forward with good passes. After only one minute of play, Fenelus dribbled from the right flank, feeding a short pass inside the penalty area to
LEAVING IT LATE: Rakuten added late runs last night to add to wins on Wednesday against the Brothers and the Lions on Friday that went down to the last batter The Rakuten Monkeys rallied to post three late runs for another close win, prevailing 5-3 over the Uni-President Lions yesterday as Taiwan’s second-half CPBL season got started with lower scoring output, but exciting finishes. It was Rakuten’s third win in a row. In two games this week, they seized victory in dramatic fashion with their last at-bat and have drawn level with the CTBC Brothers on top of the table after yesterday’s results, 0.5 games in front of the Fubon Guardians and 1.5 games ahead of the Lions. It was tied at 1-1 early, with Rakuten hosting the Lions at the Taoyuan Intenational
STAYING COOL: Hamilton said that his ‘heart nearly stopped’ when he noticed the puncture, but he kept going to beat Alain Prost’s total of six home wins in France Lewis Hamilton said he feared he might not make it home when a last lap puncture almost derailed his charge to a record seventh British Grand Prix victory on Sunday. “I didn’t think I would make it round the last two corners,” the world champion said. The front left tire of his Mercedes had delaminated and deflated on his final lap, leaving the six-time world champion to nurse his vehicle to the finish as second-placed Max Verstappen hunted him down. “I just can’t believe it,” Hamilton said. “It was heart-stopping. I backed off and stayed chilled and was so glad it happened on