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Sports How LeBron James can elevate his all-time legacy by uplifting other Lakers in Year 19

15:47  19 october  2021
15:47  19 october  2021 Source:   sportingnews.com

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LeBron James has already done the unthinkable.

Entering Year 19, he’s taken a blowtorch to any historical precedent about what any player should be capable of at this stage.

Consider the last 18 months, alone:

  • Winning a fourth NBA title
  • Becoming the first player in NBA history to win Finals MVP with three different teams
  • Passing Kobe Bryant for third on the all-time scoring list
  • Leading the entire league in assists per game
  • Scoring 25 a night for the 17th(!!!) year in a row
  • Winning an Oscar for Spa… ok, maybe not that one

And yet, it’s amazing how quickly we all seem to forget.

Nagging injuries, a first-round exit to the Phoenix Suns, and otherworldly performances by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant seems to have thrown the masses off the King’s scent.

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In the annual NBA GM survey, none of the 30 picked James to win the MVP. In ESPN’s August survey of 10 NBA scouts and executives, when asked to pick the game’s best player, five picked KD and five picked Giannis. In our very own Sporting News season predictions, none of our 10 writers pegged James for even a top-3 finish!

LeBron hears it all. He’s taking notes. He’s keeping receipts. He’s even sarcastically embracing the #WashedKing narrative on Twitter for all 50 million of his followers.

That’s not to say the road to the NBA’s throne doesn’t still go through the King. It most certainly does, especially given the context of a season in which Kawhi Leonard, Jamal Murray and Klay Thompson project to miss substantial time with no guarantee of a return to 100%. #WashedKing aside, the Lakers are still betting favorites to win the West.

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Beyond proving doubters wrong, James knows the stakes set forth. A student of the game, he knows that a fifth title pulls him within one of Jordan. He knows that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s astounding 38,387 points are within reach. He knows that winning an MVP at age 37 would set yet another record.

But for once, he also knows that winning this season — more so than any other in his entire career — is as much about what he can do for his teammates than himself.

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Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony are two of the new faces on the Lakers in 2021-22 © Provided by Sporting News Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony are two of the new faces on the Lakers in 2021-22

Think about what a championship would mean for best friend and 2003 draft mate Carmelo Anthony. One of the 10 most prolific scorers of all-time, Anthony hasn’t so much as sniffed NBA postseason success, advancing out of the first round just twice with a lone trip to the Conference Finals in 2009. Especially if he plays a meaningful role, winning changes how many will choose to remember Anthony, who has the opportunity to bring his tale of redemption and revival full circle.

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What about Russell Westbrook? Sure, the triple-doubles are nice but there’s a hollowness to his voluminous stat-padding. We think of the blown 3-1 lead to the Warriors in 2016. And the three straight first-round exits following Durant’s departure. And the ill-advised late-game foibles that seem to creep forth at the most inopportune times. And the brief stints in Houston and Washington, the product of teams desperate to move off presumably unmoveable contracts for the opportunity to throw Westbrook at a wall and see what sticks.

What would a second title do for Anthony Davis? Though nowhere near the end of the line, multiple rings helps elevate AD into another stratosphere when it comes time for talking about his all-time place in the game.

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What about Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo and DeAndre Jordan? Howard and Rondo — both of whom won rings in the bubble before bouncing for a year only to return — probably punch tickets to the Hall of Fame with one more championship. And while Jordan’s name isn’t muttered in conversations about Springfield, perhaps winning a championship opens the door for even slight consideration.

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What about Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn? Both of them signed bargain bin, "bet-on-yourself" deals to join the Lakers in the hopes that blossoming next to James would significantly boost both their short-term and long-term value.

“He’s more Magic than Michael” has long been a LeBron-ism uttered by pundits who rightfully point out his ability to elevate and empower those around him. And as James continues in his mythical quest to overtake Jordan’s ubiquitous shadow, forever changing the conversation regarding the legacies of his teammates affords him a self-less, enduring opportunity to further set himself apart from MJ.

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Make no mistake, there’s personal vested interest in LeBron James snatching the crown and scepter en route to reclaiming the throne. Doing so with an aging roster against the backdrop of a league for once doubting his ability to do just adds to the mystique meticulously drafted over 18 awe-inspiring years.

Looking ahead to Year 19, it’s as much about all the king’s men as it is the King himself.

James Worthy blasts Lakers after poor performance vs. Thunder: 'This might have been the worst loss I've seen' .
"You have to finish the job, regardless of who you're playing," Worthy said.Los Angeles led by as many as 26 points on Wednesday night, but Oklahoma City ultimately prevailed by a final score of 123-115, earning its first win of the 2021-22 season. Prior to that loss, the Lakers had gone a perfect 230-0 in games over the last 25 seasons in which they led by at least 25 points, per ESPN Stats and Info . Yikes.

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