LeBron James Still Has a Few Tricks Up His Sleeve

James made nine of his 10 three-point attempts while scoring 40 points.

At this point we’ve pretty much seen LeBron James do it all on the basketball court so it’s really difficult for him to break new ground in this the 21st year of his career. Yet every now and again he finds fresh new ways to amaze, like Sunday night in Brooklyn. James sank 9 of 10 three-point tries in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 116-104 victory over the Nets en route to 40 points.

It’s the second time he’s reached the 40-point mark since turning 39. The only other player in NBA history to have multiple games of 40 points at that age is Michael Jordan. James is now shooting a career-high 41.6 percent from three-point range this season, up from 32.1 percent last year. He had previously made nine three-pointers in a game one time — last January against the Los Angeles Clippers. He was 9-for-14 from beyond the arc in that contest.

“I don’t ever have to lean on [3-pointers] because I can do so much — I can score on any level on the floor basically once I cross half court,” James said after the game. “But being able to have a growth mindset and be able to work on things that the league is changing to, the league is a heavy 3-point shooting league. I’m not one of those guys that wants to go out there and shoot 12, 14 or 15 3s per game. But I want to be respected, and teams have to play me from the outside. That’s still kind of one thing teams [think] … ‘If we have to give up something, we’d much rather him shoot the ball from the outside.'”

Seventeen if James’ 40 points on Sunday came in the fourth quarter — a frame that saw him connect on 5 of 6 from the field and all four of his three-pointer attempts — to thwart a late Nets run and give the Lakers a much-needed victory. Los Angeles is currently a No. 9 seed in the Western Conference with seven games left to play.

The performance was impressive enough to earn him a rare ovation from fans in a hostile arena when he checked out of the game. He punctuated the moment by placing an imaginary crown on his head while walking off the court.

While speaking to reporters after the victory, James was asked how much longer he’s going to keep going out there to create these moments.

“Not very long,” he said. “Not very long. I’m on the other side, obviously, of the hill. So I’m not going to play another 21 years, that’s for damn sure. But not very long. I don’t know what or when that door will close as far as when I retire, but I don’t have much time left.”

This may be the first time he’s acknowledged that his career is in the sunset phase so definitively. But if he can keep playing like this and transition to more of a perimeter threat in his forties, well, “not very long” could mean three or four more years.

Kyle Koster is an editor at The Big Lead.

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