Still Holding Court
When you come for the king, you'd best not miss.
James had 25 points through three quarters, with the Lakers trailing 89-87 after he missed a would-be buzzer-beater heading into the final frame.
That's when the evening got really interesting, as James was seen jawing with someone who apparently was celebrating the missed attempt.
James declined to identify who caught his attention, but reports point toward Jason Hillman, Cleveland's basketball chief of staff.
If the razzing was meant to get in the King's head, it backfired.
LeBron came out like a man possessed in the fourth quarter, pouring in buckets from every spot on the floor, including well beyond the arc.
Well, well beyond.
James went deep into his bag, as he scored 21 of the Lakers' 28 fourth-quarter points on 9-of-10 shooting and 3-of-4 from distance.
His final stat line: 46 points on 73% shooting, eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks – and, of course, a hard-earned W.
The vintage performance was enough to get James superfan Shannon Sharpe to bust out the first GOAT mask of the year on Undisputed.
Sharpe followed that with unbridled praise for James' "virtuoso" performance, adding it to a list of unforgettable moments.
"You probably remember when they put man on the moon. You probably remember that exact date. ... This is why you've got to appreciate this. On a Monday night in January, early in the basketball season, he can give you that."
Skip Bayless admitted that he enjoyed the show but allowed that he wants to see "Angry LeBron" more often, albeit without needing that drive to come from outside noise.
"That pushed the deepest button to him. ... So he's back in his house, the house that he built. ... And that guy has the audacity to sit there and applaud him missing a shot at the end of the third quarter. ... I would love to see him play angry more often, but it's not natural to him. He needs external motivation."
Compounding LeBron's big night is the fact that he did it in his 18th season as a pro.
Yes, if his career were a person, it would be allowed to vote, join the military, buy a lotto ticket or any number of the many options afforded to legal adults.
That longevity and the evolution of LeBron's game have some reevaluating the 36-year-old's standing when it comes to the GOAT conversation, namely his legacy vs. Michael Jordan's.
In the grand scheme, one game against the 8-9 Cavaliers likely won't define Los Angeles' season. They have designs on defending their title as world champions, first and foremost.
But Monday served as a reminder that the King is still holding court, and all would-be usurpers must go through him to claim the crown.