For the first time since the National Basketball Association revised All-Star Game rules in 2018 to include the concept of drafting, a LeBron James-led squad did not wind up on the right side of the score after the buzzer. The newly minted career scoring leader in pro hoops annals had been flawless the previous five times he captained his side, with the outcome a question in only two of those contests. Whether due to sheer luck or because of his outstanding skills in crafting a team is subject to speculation. That said, there can be no arguing with the results. The other day, however, he failed to translate his draft choices to on-court magic.
Perhaps James was due for a loss. After all, the setup is aimed precisely at ensuring unpredictability in the final tally. It likewise bears noting that he could not burn rubber in the second half of the spectacle, what with an injury caused by his finger hitting the rim compelling him to be sidelined for good. Those used to the All-Star Game being a defenseless match may well say it serves him right; he tried, and failed, to block a shot in dramatic fashion, and all he got for the effort was a contusion. Never mind that he was probably enjoined by a successful chasedown denial he earlier made.
In any case, Lakers fans were only too glad to know James was not affected enough to miss set-tos for the foreseeable future. And his nagging ankle ailment notwithstanding, he has pledged to be available for the remainder of the regular season. As well he should; the purple and gold are in 13th place, a couple of games out of a provisional play-in spot, with 23 encounters left before the playoffs, and he says he will endeavor to ensure that he doesn’t get to have an early vacation for the second straight year. Losing, he contended, “is not in my DNA.”
That James is still the most popular player in the NBA cannot be denied. He knows that he is also the most polarizing, but he couldn’t care less. It’s why he has managed to rack up achievement after achievement despite the pressure. He uses all the negative energy of naysayers to fuel him. Which is why he’s still a force at 38, and why he will continue to be for some time to come.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.