Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
LeBron James had 40 points, 16 rebounds, and 8 assists in a thrilling win against the Kings last night.
No one (not Bird or Jordan or Kobe) has had a 40-16-8 stat line in the last 27 years.
The historic performance was a fitting end to a historic month, where he averaged 29-7-7 while shooting 64%, led his team to a 12-1 record, and raised his game to a level we haven’t seen since Jordan.
With 27 games left, LeBron is on pace to have one of the single best seasons in basketball history. If he plays like he did in February, it will go down as the best ever.
1. Based on player efficiency rating (an advanced stat that incorporates everything a player does on the court and boils it down to one number), LeBron is on pace for the best season ever. His PER is 31.9, the best PER ever is 31.8 by Wilt Chamberlain.
2. He is averaging 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists while shooting 56%. No one has ever averaged 27-8-7 while shooting at least 55%. Only three guys have ever averaged at least 27-8-7 while shooting 50%. They are (via Pro-Basketball-Reference):
- Oscar Robertson in 1962-1963 (28.3 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 9.5 apg, 51.8%)
- Larry Bird in 1986-1987 (28.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 7.6 apg, 52.5%)
- Michael Jordan in 1988-89 (32.5 ppg, 8 rpg, 8 apg, 53.8%)
3. LeBron has only had one bad game all year — scoring 15 points on 6 for 16 shooting in a loss to Portland. He has shot better than 40% in 54 of his 55 games. Here’s how that compares to his peers:
4. He ranks in the top 25 in the league in the following major categories: points (3rd), rebounds (24th), assists (9th), field goal percentage (7th), three-point percentage (21st), steals (12th), and free throws attempted (8th).
5. Beyond the stats, LeBron is playing a type of basketball that we haven’t seen before.
He is a 6’9″ point-forward who is comfortable attacking from anywhere on the court. He has the inside-outside scoring ability of Dirk Nowitzki with the ball-handling and vision of Steve Nash.
He can post you up, drive past you, or shoot over you. He can guard Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett all in the same game. He is everything all at once, borrowing dimensions of other great players to form something new.
The way LeBron plays has changed the way other teams and player try and play, which is the the surest sign of greatness. After LeBron dominated at power forward in last year’s playoffs, a wave of small-ball (with teams playing traditional 3’s at power forward) as swept the league this year. Even Kevin Durant — the undisputed second-best player in the league — has tweaked himself this year to become a more all-around player, more like LeBron.
At age 28, LeBron is peaking. Improbably, he is everything people thought he could be when he came out of high school.
If LeBron is able to match what he did in February in the final 27 games, this season will go down as at least the best individual season since Jordan, and probably the best season ever.
He may never be this good again, and we never see basketball played like this for another 30 years.
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