Mendoza: The greatest does it again

·2 min read

IF the Los Angeles Lakers are back, it’s because LeBron James is back.

And if the Lakers couldn’t lose, it’s because LeBron James wouldn’t budge.

Out for 26 games, the longest absence in his career, James resurfaced Thursday, May 20, 2021 to resurrect the Lakers’ dimming championship hopes.

Never mind that his vision was blurred when he got the chance to fire the winning shot.

He’s not used to an impaired sight, but not to hitting game-winners.

Just seconds before James sealed a 103-100 playoffs clincher with that fall-away for the ages from 34 feet, he got poked in the eye by Draymond Green while on a drive.

“I saw three rims from being poked in the eye,” said James. “Just aim for the middle one, you know?”

When the ball swished the net, Steph Curry, history’s greatest shooter suddenly finding himself guarding the greatest player of his era, froze—but only momentarily.

He knew this was James. Capable of doing everything—almost.

“That’s who he is,” said Wes Matthews, James’ teammate. “He steps up big moments, big games. That’s why he’s one of the best to ever play this game.”

But if James’ latest game-closer makes for heroes, the things he did before that were stuff for living legends.

Scoring only six first-half points and seeing his team trail by 13 at halftime, James, bucking a nagging right ankle sprain, did what was expected of him: Bailout big time.

With huge help as usual from Davis, redirected to center position, and who went 5-for-6 in the fourth quarter for a team-high 25 points to go with 12 rebounds,

James took charge like never before.

He scored. He rebounded. He assisted.

Sixteen of his 22-point total came in the second half to go with 11 rebounds and 10 assists for yet another scintillating triple-double.

Said Lakers coach Frank Vogel: “He proved he’s the best player in the world... He hits that bomb with the game on the line to win it for us. Put it on his resume; add it to the list of great plays.”

Aside from Davis, James also paid tribute to Alex Caruso’s performance of 14 points and three steals.

“He pays attention to detail,” said James of Caruso. “He plays smart.”

The Lakers will face No. 2 Phoenix beginning Monday (May 24 PH time) in the best-of-seven series.

Despite being the defending champions, the Lakers are the underdogs. But a bet against the Lakers is a bet against James.

Are you that brave?