It might be safe to assume that the Los Angeles Lakers would have been much worse if LeBron James wasn’t on the roster last season. For the most part, James kept them alive, averaging his highest point total since his third year in the league, in what was an otherwise disappointing season for the Lakers.
The 2021-22 season was all about adaptation for LeBron. At times, he played center, then point guard, then forward, then offered tips while on the bench. It was all about making the fit work between Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and himself.
Inconsistency and injuries hurt those chances but rarely did James falter in confidence. He became eager about improving the team throughout the season. But, after a February loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, James seemed to give in — saying they can’t currently reach the Bucks’ championship level.
As the Lakers struggled throughout the season, James’ scoring never fell off. It became one of the best statistical seasons of his career with the scoring title well in sight. He scored over 30 points in 11 of the team’s 12 games between December and January, including a 43-point outburst against the Portland Trail Blazers.
That point total wasn’t even the most memorable — like when he passed Karl Malone for second on the All-Time scoring list — or highest — like when he scored 56 against the Golden State Warriors in March.
James’ energy during the season became huge motivation too for the losing side. Injuries though caught up with LeBron as he missed the third-most games of his career. Leading in the MVP race before injuries, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if James had brought home another trophy.
While LeBron’s ridiculous consistency at age 37 still wasn’t enough to push the Lakers into the Play In-Game, however, he didn’t view the season as a failure.
With a full offseason, James will surely be prepared to run it back in 2022-23. He finished this past season averaging 30.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.2 assists, showing he still has a lot left in the tank.
This was a difficult one to choose, but LeBron’s 56 against the Warriors in early March stands out. The Lakers were in the middle of a tough four-game losing streak with one win in their last eight games. Playoff hopes were dwindling down and James’ 56-point explosion on 61% shooting from the field offered some life.
Obviously, the win wasn’t enough to keep the playoffs alive, but it was remarkable to watch a player in his 19th season perform like that.
James will be back as one of the top players in the NBA in 2022-23. Entering his final season on contract with the Lakers, maximizing the roster to win a championship will be a major priority.
LeBron hasn’t made any indications about re-signing after that, so the pressure will be on the Lakers front office to put together a roster of his liking before he is extension-eligible in August.
Players like LeBron come around once in a generation, so if this is the last season he wears the Purple and Gold, we should enjoy every second.
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