LeBron James is all of a sudden undergoing a strange and somewhat life-altering change on his trek into the realm of hoops’ immortality.
Early in the 2016-17 NBA season, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ all-purpose star has shown a willingness to reinvent himself all over again — brand and reaffirm his legacy as that of someone not even his four league MVPs and three NBA titles have fully illustrated he could be.
It’s an incarnation that has James and the defending champs living the life early on this season, as the Cavs have raced out to a quick 5-0 start, reigning as the league’s only remaining unbeaten.
And just like that, after 13 seasons of leading every NBA team he’s ever starred on in scoring, USA Today reports James has transformed himself into an even more unpredictable and arguably potent force. While his scoring average is down by nearly five points this season compared to his career numbers, his assists are up by more than three per game and his rebounds by almost two. Overall, he’s averaging a staggering 22.4 points, 10 assists, and nine rebounds.
“We know LeBron can score the basketball, but to start the season he’s been a great facilitator for us,” Cavs’ coach Ty Lue recently raved to ESPN after James ditched out 12 assists in his second double digit assist game of the season during Cleveland’s hard earned 128-122 win over the rival Celtics.
“He can also score the basketball on any given night,” Lue added. “You’ll probably see that also coming up.”
James’ record now clearly speaks for itself when it comes to such matters. Coming into the season, he ranked just a few baskets behind Hakeem Olajuwon for a spot in the top 10 on the league’s all-time scoring list.
But more than ever, this season seems all about breathing life into whatever it is that stands to give the Cavs their best shot at immortality. With that in mind, James is ready to embrace any change he deems necessary.
“I never thought it would be possible after obviously (Oscar Robertson) did it,” he said of all the talk of him possibly averaging a triple double. “You see in the game today, you see guys like Russ (Westbrook), what he’s doing every night. I’ve come close a few times. I’ve always told you guys I want to be a triple-threat for my team every night.”
And if added motivation has anything to do with it, consider James’ run at history a done deal.
Shortly after news broke that the rival Golden State Warriors had landed Kevin Durant as the biggest catch of summer free agency, word is James officially kicked his offseason workout regimen into another dimension.
Even as he coyly shot down the notion that the sight of Durant, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson all uniting was behind his sudden doggedness, he religiously turned out for early morning, 6 a.m. workouts at a West Hollywood gym.
“I think it’s great for our league,” he told Business Insider back then of Durant heading to the Warriors. “Our league is very competitive. It’s continued to grow and [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver has done a great job of picking up where David Stern started, so it’s pretty cool.”
All that translates to mean game on in the minds of James and his Cavs in their quest to defend their crown.
Against Boston, Kevin Love netted 26 points and Kyrie Irving added 23, as James (30 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds) resisted several late-game opportunities to actually surpass Olajuwon by again electing to defer to his teammates.
“It’s always humbling when you’re able to put yourself in any category with guys that laid the path for you and the rest of us,” he said of his still growing list of accolades.
For him and the Cavs, all early indications are change will be a good thing.
[Featured Image by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]