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Quickly sufficient, LeBron James may just go away the most commonly empty area and after all rejoice his 36th birthday.

James helped the Los Angeles Lakers to a 121-107 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night time. However a larger present awaited James again on the staff resort.

“I’ve some wine ready on me,” mentioned James after posting a team-high 26 issues. “Most definitely some teammates will forestall by way of. There’s a meal room now we have our conferences at. We would possibly forestall down there and watch some TV and drink some excellent wine. Possibly have some tequila.”

Fortunately for James, he does no longer have to fret in regards to the social distancing restrictions as a lot in San Antonio as he does in Los Angeles. Again in LA, no non-public gatherings are allowed whatsoever because of the coronavirus pandemic. However due to the NBA’s rigorous checking out protocols, James knew he may just rejoice safely together with his teammates inside of a non-public resort.

At that time, it kind of feels inevitable James will mirror on a yr that allowed him to show off his on-court greatness and his off-court management via a time of turmoil.

“The yr 2020 used to be one hell of a yr. The great, the dangerous, the unpleasant and the entirety in between,” James mentioned. “It’s one thing that us as American citizens and folks in every single place the arena haven’t observed earlier than ever.”

LeBron James shoots round Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan. (Picture: Scott Wachter, USA TODAY Sports activities)

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James then mentioned a few topics. He brought up the coronavirus that has killed more than 340,000 people and left millions unemployed. James conveyed empathy for the lost family members and the shuttered businesses. He brought up the nation’s systemic racism that highlighted police killing or shooting unarmed Black people. He mentioned the country’s initiatives toward racial equality (“Black Lives Matter”). He plugged his own initiative to improve voter turnout, especially in the Black community (“More Than a Vote.”)

Amid all of that, James led the Lakers in numerous ways. He helped galvanize the franchise following the Kobe Bryant tragedy. He helped the Lakers stay disciplined when the NBA suspended the season at the beginning of the pandemic and when the NBA resumed the season in a quarantined campus. He capped that unique season restart with his fourth NBA championship and fourth Finals MVP.

“So many storylines that you can sit down at a fireplace and have your grandkids sit on your lap,” James said. “Whatever issue they want to talk about for quite a while. I’m looking forward to that moment.”

James might have become reflective since 2021 finally awaits on Friday. But as this past year showed, the Lakers’ star hardly seems ready about living in the past. Instead, he demonstrated why he can still add to his legacy. After missing 27 games in the 2018-19 season because of a strained left groin, James avoided a major injury, led the league in assists and led the Lakers to their 17th NBA title and first in 10 years.

Even if James planned to celebrate his 36th birthday with some alcoholic beverages, he otherwise has stayed disciplined with his dietary habits. The Lakers marvel up close and the NBA community admires from afar how James also masters his training regimen.

“It’s a tribute both to his intelligence level and his tenacity, his character and his commitment to excellence. When you combine those things, you get what we see in LeBron James after all of these years,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He looks pretty much like when he first came into the league. He deserves a lot of credit for being the consummate professional, using every technique that he can and being on the cutting edge of things. His mental state along with his physical state really makes him very special, probably more than anybody that has played the game.”

That is saying a lot considering that James is in the middle of his 18th NBA season and has spent nearly half of his life in the NBA.  James contended “it doesn’t make sense” considering he grew up in a single-family home in Akron, Ohio and experienced various forms of racism and poverty.  

That does not mean James has remained content with his basketball resume. Heck, James just became the first player in NBA history to score at least 10 points in 1,000 consecutive games.

“I have to do things to help our team win,” James said. “If that’s scoring, rebounding, defending, assisting, doing little things and be available for my teammates throughout the course of the game when I’m on the floor and also when I’m on the bench, I’ve been fortunate enough to do that in my career for the majority of it. I give a lot of credit to my teammates and coaching staffs throughout the course of my career that allows me to be who I am and to use my influence for the betterment of the team as well.”

So now that he is 36 years old, James weighed the issue on to what extent his game will evolve or stay the same.

“That’s a good question,” James said. “I never try to put a cap or a ceiling on trying to evolve my game.”

Lakers coach Frank Vogel observed that “the evolution at this stage of his career has really taken place more than anything that is going to happen this year.” That is because James  ensured that Anthony Davis has become the offensive focal point. That is because James has taken a more deliberate approach with his diet and recovery habits than he did early in his career.

Still, James noted that he likely won’t have as many ball handling duties because of the Lakers’ off-season additions that included Dennis Schröder, Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell and Wesley Matthews. James plans to rely on what he called his “wide receiver skills” by creating scoring opportunities through off-ball movement than playmaking.

Regardless, James has both excelled and maintained longevity because of his blend of scoring and playmaking. He has tweaked those skills depending on the personnel around him.

“There’s no ceiling for my game,” James said. “I feel just as good as I did at 35, as I did at 32 and as I did at 29. I want to keep on pushing the envelope and see how far I can take this thing.”

Unlike in past birthdays, there were no rookies to sing “Happy Birthday” to James before or after the game. Davis contended he did not give James a birthday gift other than a win.

“What do you give LeBron James? Some wine,” Davis said. “I might get him some wine.”

It sounded like James was well-stocked with those beverages, though, to celebrate a day he cherished.

“Hopefully I’ve made my hometown proud, my mother proud, my family, my wife and my kids and my boys back home and my friends,” James said. “Everyone I’ve been associated or around, I continue to evolve and inspire them and empower the, to be great as well. I’ve bene very blessed. I don’t ever try to take it for granted.”

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Fb and Instagram. 

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