At the age of 35, LeBron James is still one of the most explosive athletes in the NBA, but if we’re to go with the assumption that James is human, that elite athleticism will slowly start to fade sooner rather than later. The one thing that won’t escape him, though, is his once in a generation court vision, and he’s shown that this season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Through 32 games this season, James is the league leader in total assists with 347. That’s 60 more assists more than Ben Simmons, who’s ranked second in total assists this season. If James finishes with the most assists at the end of the season, it will mark the first time in his illustrious 16-year career that he’s led the league.
Additionally, James is posting the highest assist percentage in the league (51.2%) and if he finishes the season with an assist percentage of above 50%, he’ll become just the seventh player in NBA history to accomplish that feat. James Harden, Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and John Stockton are the others.
So as far as playmaking goes, James is the sharpest he’s ever been, and the Lakers have benefited from it in a big way. After the Lakers’ win over the Dallas Mavericks — a game in which James had 12 assists — Frank Vogel talked about the playmaking clinic James has put on as of late.
“It’s a hell of a two-game stretch: 29 assists, 2 turnovers. His pace the last two nights has been outstanding,” Vogel said of James. “Just in the open court but also in the half court, not looking to settle.
“We didn’t touch the paint enough in the second half vs the Clippers and it cost us that win. We reversed that, and did a much better job the last two nights of making sure that we’re living in the paint. We’re getting in the paint, taking care of the basketball, make great decisions and he got 16 to 13 assists, just picking teams apart by being aggressive.”
For James, though, sharing the ball is just something that he’s always done, ever since he first picked up a basketball.
“My little league coach Frank Walker always talked about is it’s the greatest part of basketball, to be able to see the ball move from side to side, to be able to attract the defense and get your teammates an open shot,” James said.
“When I was a little kid and I was somewhat better than some of my teammates, he (said) ‘it’s a much greater reward in seeing some of your teammates that can’t dribble, or can’t score for themselves for you to get them an open look,’ and that was instilled in me when I was 9 years old when I first started playing organized basketball,” James continued.
“We won the championship the first year, we won it the second year, I started winning, winning, and winning, and it’s been instilled in me. I just knew that was the right way to play. So, it’s been a part of my game.”
James also understands that in order for him to put others in the position to succeed, he needs to be put in the right position, and he thinks the Lakers have done a good job of doing that.
“My teammates and the coaching staff trust me to play the point and to run the show and it’s my job to take care of the ball and just try to put the guys in position to be successful, put the ball on time and on target for threes, for lobs, for dunks, for transition, whatever the case may be, use my abilities, my vision that I’ve had all my life to just try to see the floor, and I’ve been able to do that the last couple games,” James said.
James may not be able to throw down tomahawk slam dunks from just inside the free-throw-line forever, but if this season is any indication of what the later years of James’ career will look like, he’ll continue to climb up the all-time assists leaderboard (he’s currently ranked ninth) and age as gracefully as any star we’ve ever seen.