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Up next: 40,000 points

The Philippine Star
Up next: 40,000 points
LeBron James
AFP

LeBron eager to set record in home game

Father Time is likely to take another loss on Saturday.

LeBron James is nine points away from becoming the first NBA player to reach 40,000. It’s obviously reasonable to think that he’ll get it when the Los Angeles Lakers host the Denver Nuggets on Saturday. James has scored at least nine points in each of his last 762 games that count, including playoffs.

He’s been held under nine points a total of nine times in 21 seasons. In other words, 40,000 is about to happen. And since 50,000 points probably won’t happen — though one never knows with the 39-year-old James — this will be another moment that is certainly worth savoring.

“No one has done it,” James said. “And for me to be in this position at this point and time in my career, I think it’s pretty cool. But is it one of the top things I’ve done in my career? No. Does it mean something? Of course. Why wouldn’t it?”

He never set out in pursuit of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s scoring record; it just happened. He never set out in pursuit of Vince Carter’s record of playing 22 seasons either; he’ll tie that mark next year, barring some sort of seismic change in his plans or thinking. It’s still about one thing, and that’s the ring.

The Lakers aren’t the favorites to win the title this season. But given how the oldest player in the NBA right now has performed this week, Laker Nation still has plenty of reasons to think that one more run to a Larry O’Brien Trophy is possible.

What he did on Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers was pure theater. He outscored the Clippers 19-16 by himself in the fourth quarter, making five three-pointers and leading the Lakers to a wild 116-112 comeback win. And then on Thursday night – a back-to-back for a 39-year-old with a bad ankle – he played 39 minutes, scored 31 points and had a huge chasedown block that became a game-saving play to help the Lakers get an overtime win against Washington.

“That’s why he takes good care of himself,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “The fruits of his labor are on full display with plays like that.”

The Wizards are bad, sure. But a win is a win, and the Lakers keep stacking them. They’re 9-3 in their last 12 games, are five games over .500 and now get a shot at Denver in a rematch of last season’s Western Conference finals mismatch.

That’s James’ focus entering Saturday. Not getting 40,000 points.

“We just want to get better,” James said.

It’s cliché, but true. That said, he’s just doing a whole ton of unprecedented stuff.

He’s going to average about 25 points this season. There hasn’t been an “oldest player” in the NBA to average even 10 points since John Stockton scored 10.8 per game in 2002-03. James is probably going to finish with the highest scoring average of any oldest player ever; Abdul-Jabbar was the league’s oldest player when he averaged 23.4 points in 1985-86.

Here’s another oldie-but-goodie: James was an All-Star last month. Nobody had been an All-Star in a season where they were the league’s oldest player since 1991, when Robert Parish pulled it off.

“It’s just been an absolute honor to be able to grace the floor throughout my career and be out there with the greatest players in the world year in and year out,” James said in Indianapolis, when he was an All-Star for the 20th time in his 21 seasons.

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