LeBron James became just the third person to reach 36,000 all-time career points, behind only Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and the Lakers veteran did it starting at center.
James, who is set to turn 37 before the end of the year, has been having a phenomenal individual season again for the Lakers, averaging 27.6 points, seven rebounds and 6.7 assists per game so far in 2021-22. On Christmas Day he passed Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer on Christmas Day.
On Tuesday night against the Houston Rockets, James became just the third player to notch 36,000 points, and he did it while starting at center for the Covid, and injury-ravaged Lakers. James’ 32-point performance marks his fifth consecutive game with over 30 points, and his triple-double against the Rockets was his fifth 30-point triple-double since turning 35.
The Lakers snapped a five-game losing streak with the win against Houston.
“I never played center in my life. I’ve always been on the wing or handling the ball. I was a skinny, lanky kid growing up,” James said post-game.
LeBron James on if he’s played center before in his basketball career: “I never played center in my life before.”
— Ryan Ward (@RyanWardLA) December 29, 2021
The Lakers have been hit hard this season by Covid, and injury, and have had to rotate a bunch of new faces through the lineup while interim coach David Fizdale has had to get creative in shifting his established players in different positions to suit each match-up.
Against the Rockets they played an eight-man rotation.
Throughout his career, James has been called a point-forward, (the Lakers essentially won the championship two seasons ago with LeBron playing point-guard) and he says he’s taken note of the responsibilities of all positions during his career in the NBA which has allowed him to play at center various times this season for the Lakers.
LeBron says he feels he can be successful in any type of lineup whether it be big or small.
“I think I’ve taken pride over the course of my career in being able to play five positions. Or at least know all five positions. Knowing the commands,” James said. “So tonight … called for me to start at center and I just tried to be in a hell of a lot of plays.”
LeBron says he’s taken pride over his career in knowing the responsibilities of all 5 positions, which he believes has helped while playing center this season.
— Lakers Nation (@LakersNation) December 29, 2021
Fizdale said his gamble paid off.
“LeBron’s plus-minus at the 5 is so ridiculous right now,” Fizdale, who is filling in while Frank Vogel is in protocols, said afterward.”To have guys out with COVID and stuff like that, I just took a gamble and said, ‘You know, I think that tonight’s the night to start him at 5.'”