Mendoza: LeBron legacy continues to grow

Never mind that the Los Angeles Lakers are deep down in the National Basketball Association (NBA) standings. Almost a given that they are doomed to struggle, suffer even if you will.

Despite massive line-up build-ups by Rob Pelican that even saw the sacking of their venerable 2020 champion coach Frank Vogel, the Lakers continue to miss team chemistry.

Thus, the team has now become practically a hindsight—sadly.

Focus now is on LeBron James, the Lakers’ longtime leader. It has been that way since the NBA season began in October.

A four-time NBA champion, James continues to dominate, to shine, to trigger LeBronmania almost each time he suits up.

The spunk in his demeanor has hardly waned since he gave Miami back-to-back NBA crowns in 2012 and 2013.

The will to win that saw him magnificently carry his home team Cleveland to victory in 2016 resurfaced four years later, when he powered the Lakers to their record-tying 17th NBA title in a deadlock with the equally eminent Boston Lakers.

That was in 2020, during the dramatic “NBA Bubble in Florida” caused by the pandemic, when James won a fourth ring in his 10th Finals appearance since his first championship stint in 2007 as a Cav. That ended in a forgettable 4-0 sweep by the San Antonio Spurs over the first-time NBA finalists Cleveland Cavaliers.

But even as James knows deep inside him that only a miracle can now shove his team into the playoffs, he has remained unwavering in his goal to always play at his best at every opportunity.

Not even his birthday could derail that mindset.

Thus, on his 38th—yes, 38th!—natal day on Dec. 30, he came up with 47 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in powering the Lakers to a 130-121 victory over the Hawks in Atlanta.

That was his first 40-point feat of the season and his 70th 40-point effort in his spectacular 20-season career.

And he was just fulfilling a promise to his teammates that he’d score 40 or more points.

“I called it,” said James, playing in his third game in four nights. “I told them before the game. I had to make it happen.”

Next month, he’d make it happen, too. Surpass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in most points scored in NBA history.

What a guy.