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Saturday, September 19, 2020

LeBron James proves in Lakers' win over Clippers that he can nonetheless …


LeBron James made the NBA All-Defensive Team in six consecutive seasons from 2008-14 (five-time First Team selection, one-time Second Team selection). During his prime years with the Heat, James was a one-man wrecking crew, the kind of player who could put an opposing star in a torture chamber. (Somewhere, Derrick Rose just started shaking.)

In recent years, though, James’ focus on the defensive end has been, to put it lightly, inconsistent. His last Cavs team was a mess defensively, and he faced plenty of criticism for his effort during his first season with the Lakers.

About LeBron
LeBron Raymone James Sr. (; born December 30, 1984) is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He is widely considered to be one of the greatest basketball players in NBA history. Discussions ranking him as the greatest basketball player of all time have often been subject to significant debate, with frequent comparisons to Michael Jordan. James’s teams have played in eight consecutive NBA Finals (2011–2018 seasons) between the Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers. His accomplishments include three NBA championships, four NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards, three Finals MVP Awards, and two Olympic gold medals. James holds the all-time record for playoffs points, is third in all-time points, and eighth in all-time assists. James was selected to the All-NBA First Team twelve times (all-time record), made the All-Defensive First Team five times, and has played in sixteen All-Star Games, in which he was selected All-Star MVP three times.
James played basketball for St. Vincent–St. Mary High School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, where he was heavily touted by the national media as a future NBA superstar. A prep-to-pro, he joined Cleveland in 2003 as the first overall draft pick. Named the 2003–04 NBA Rookie of the Year, he soon established himself as one of the league’s premier players, winning the NBA MVP Award in 2009 and 2010. After failing to win a championship with Cleveland, James left in 2010 to sign as a free agent with Miami. This move was announced in an ESPN special titled The Decision, and is one of the most controversial free agent decisions in American sports history.
James won his first two NBA championships while playing for the Heat in 2012 and 2013; in both of these years, he also earned league MVP and Finals MVP. After his fourth season with the Heat in 2014, James opted out of his contract to re-sign with the Cavaliers. In 2016, he led the Cavaliers to victory over the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals by coming back from a 3–1 deficit, delivering the franchise’s first championship and ending Cleveland’s 52-year professional sports title drought. In 2018, James opted out of his contract with the Cavaliers to sign with the Lakers.
Off the court, James has accumulated additional wealth and fame from numerous endorsement contracts. His public life has been the subject of much scrutiny, and he has been ranked as one of America’s most influential and popular athletes. He has been featured in books, documentaries, and television commercials. He has also hosted the ESPY Awards and Saturday Night Live, and appeared in the 2015 film Trainwreck. The LeBron James Family Foundation charity builds upon his vision to improve education for students in Akron, Ohio.

LeBron James proves in Lakers' win over Clippers that he can still …

About proves
Proveis (German pronunciation: [proˈfaɪ̯s]; Italian: Proves [proˈves]) is a comune (municipality) in South Tyrol in northern Italy, located about 25 kilometres (16 mi) west of Bolzano.

MORE: What another championship would mean for LeBron’s legacy

But now, with the Lakers sitting atop the Western Conference and chasing a championship inside the NBA’s “bubble,” James appears to have rediscovered his passion for single-handedly destroying an offense. Just ask the Clippers.

LeBron James proves in Lakers' win over Clippers that he can still …

In the Lakers’ 103-101 victory over their LA rivals on Thursday night, James showed off the athleticism, effort and IQ that made him one of the most terrifying defensive forces the league has ever seen. His most noteworthy stop came on the final possession when he stifled Kawhi Leonard, then switched onto Paul George, forcing the six-time All-Star into an off-balance 3-point attempt.

That wasn’t even the first time James shut down Leonard. He also stood strong on an isolation play earlier in the game, and Leonard had no choice but to hoist up a fadeaway jumper. No chance.

James’ biggest lapses in the past few seasons have come when he’s away from the ball. He often drifted away from his assignment and stood in no-man’s land rather than rotating.

Not anymore. James is once again a locked-in free safety, a ball hawk anticipating passes ahead of time and attacking with great vigor.

The numbers back up the eye test. Prior to the suspension of play, James was third in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus metric, a significant jump from 2018-19 when he finished 51st. The Lakers are also third in defensive rating, behind only the Bucks and Raptors, compared to 13th last season.

James is obviously not the sole reason why Los Angeles is elite on that end of the floor. He’s not even the best defender on his team. That honor goes to Anthony Davis, who should be an All-Defensive Team selection this year.

But as he proved against a top contender Thursday, James is still capable of being an incredible disruptor. When it matters most, you can bet he’ll be standing directly across from his opponent’s biggest offensive threat.