It was the first thought that raced not just through the minds of Lakers fans watching Sunday night’s game against but LeBron James himself when he went down with an ankle injury midway through the second quarter.
Last season, James missed significant time after Solomon Hill dove into James’ ankle tracking down a loose ball, an injury James said took months into the offseason to fully heal from. On Sunday, an all-too-familiar sight unfolded as Desmond Bane rolled into James’ ankle after colliding with Dwight Howard mid-air on a layup attempt.
Like last season, James collapsed to the ground. Like last season, he rolled on the court, clutching at his ankle. Unlike last season, he hopped back up, tightened his shoelaces and looked no worse for the wear the remainder of the night.
“The first thing I was thinking to myself was ‘not again’ obviously because it was almost similar but not the same kind of play; a guy falling into my leg and there’s nothing you can do about it,” James said after the game. “I couldn’t get my leg out of there in time. I just wanted to try to take a moment on the floor, just hopefully it wasn’t getting worse. I had the opportunity to tie my shoe again and see if I could continue to go and I was able to continue to go.”
Dying at Anthony Davis' check up on LeBron James after his ankle injury pic.twitter.com/q1kixV2PVL— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) October 25, 2021
After pulling up his bootstraps, figuratively and literally, James went on to play a game-high 40 minutes on Sunday, helping the Lakers see out a 121-118 win over the Grizzlies for their first victory of the year. James had an uncharacteristically inefficient night shooting the ball, going 7-of-19 from the field overall, though he did finish 4-of-9 from the 3-point line and tallied 19 points, six rebounds and six assists with two steals and two blocks.
Following the win, James acknowledged his ankle wasn’t 100% even after playing through it.
“It’s a little sore right now,” James said. “And obviously, I think it’s going to be a little sore tomorrow when I wake up. Obviously, I’m an around-the-clock guy when it comes to treatment so, hopefully, I’ll be ready to go on Tuesday.”
The Lakers will have their first back-to-back on the season this week, traveling to San Antonio on Tuesday before stopping in Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Never one to want to sit out games, James’ status will be worth watching this week.
Fortunately, though, it’s a day-to-day matter for the Lakers and not a repeat of last season all over again.