ATLANTA — Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who arrived for a Friday night showdown with the Hawks on his 38th birthday, told his teammates he had a gift in store for them. He would score 40 points to get them back on track after LA lost five of their last six.
Showing that age is just a number to aim for and beat in the boxing score, James proved prophecy by posting a 130-121 win over Atlanta with 47 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
“I scored 30 and it didn’t work, so … try 40,” James said. “And we won.
After shaking off a 1 in 5 start, it was fascinating for most of the night. James finished the game with an 18-for-27 win from the field, helping LA come back from a 15-point deficit in the first half and completing their biggest comeback win of the season.
“The guy is just phenomenal, unbelievable,” said Lakers coach Darvin Ham. “But it’s something I expect. It doesn’t blow my mind. It’s just something I expect from him. It’s just like ‘Damn! Go on.'”
James didn’t just bring himself out by predicting the 40 point breakout. The performance came two days after he lamented his predicament with the shaky Lakers, saying, “I want to win and give myself a chance to win and still fight for championships.” Many saw it as James putting pressure on the LA front office to make trades to improve the roster.
Instead of hurting his teammates, it seemed to have hit a chord instead.
“To see his performance, you just shouldn’t take his size for granted,” said Thomas Bryant, who continued his strong game, filling in for the injured Anthony Davis and finishing with 19 points and 17 rebounds.
Ham said this has led to increased focus across the board. Six Lakers scored in double figures against Atlanta.
“I don’t think anyone took that as contempt,” Ham said. “I think they took it like, ‘You know what? He’s right. We need to pick up our stuff and really try to use it together, pull everyone in the same direction and rip our butts off.”
After putting the finishing touches on his birthday party and scoring 16 points in 5-on-7 shooting in the fourth quarter, he stripped off his gold No. 6 uniform, autographed it, and gave it to rapper 2 Chainz, who was sitting courtside.
James’ wife Savannah and mother Gloria were also present at the game to witness James score the second-highest points of all time on his birthday, narrowly missing the 48 he gave up when he turned 25 in 2009.
“They were with me before this 20-year campaign began,” James said of his family. “You are the rock for everything I do.”
Russell Westbrook, who had 14 points and 11 assists, penned a crucial sequence in the last minute when he had a layup, a steal and an assist on a Bryant layup within eight seconds to take LA’s lead from three to seven broke an old marketing slogan of James’s to describe the night.
“It’s just good to be able to witness that,” Westbrook said.
According to research from ESPN Stats & Information, James improved to 5-4 all-time in games played on his birthday. It was the third-highest score ever by a player aged 38 or older, behind Jamal Crawford and Michael Jordan, who each had 51 points.
James passed Jordan for the longest span between a player’s first and last 40-point game, dominating the Hawks for 18 years and 278 days after topping the 40-point plateau for the first time while playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In the State Farm Arena attendees’ locker room, Lakers employees enjoyed slices of a chocolate chip cookie cake with “HBD to the man in the arena” written across it in brown and white icing.
“I feel better than [he felt at] 18,” James said. “I didn’t know what I could be when I was 18. But I just knew that if I kept working, staying true to the game, I could be one of the greatest players ever to play this game. I just always believed that. …
“There are times when I’m on the floor and I feel like a kid again. That’s for sure.”
https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/35351037/lebron-james-season-high-47-38th-birthday-lakers-beat-hawks Lakers laud ‘amazing’ LeBron James after 47-point birthday outing