LeBron vs. Zion 2

They’re both ridiculous.

Jim Rome
March 02, 2020 - 9:14 am
LeBron James vs. Zion Williamson

USA Today

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It’s the first Monday in March and before the NBA season, it was pretty safe to assume, a team from Los Angeles would have the best record in the West. And the expectation was that it would be the Clippers. After all, they won nearly 50 games last year, gave the Warriors hell in the first round, and then added Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

But they aren’t in first place in the West. It’s the Lakers. The team that missed on Kawhi. The team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in six years. The team that had been a complete mess last season.

And while the Clippers were fighting off a legendary performance from Shake Milton and trying not to lose to a Sixers team without Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the Lakers were playing without Anthony Davis and Alex Caruso. And coming off a weird loss to Memphis. If ever there was a time to question the Lakers, to wonder if LeBron was maybe running out of steam, it was last night.

And then LeBron went out and dropped 34 points, 13 assists, and 12 rebounds in a 122-114 win.

I said it last week and I will underline it now: if the league is trying to make me want a Pelicans-Lakers first round series, mission accomplished. I pretty much want that more than I want anything else out of his life right now. Because these last two games between these two teams haven’t just lived up to the hype, they’ve smashed it.

Because this really is a blast.

Any game with Zion Williamson is a blast. Any game with LeBron James is a blast Any game with Zion and LeBron is incredible. Because you get LeBron going for a 34 point triple double and Zion going for 35 points.

Again, one guy is 35 and the other is 19. Both of those facts are utterly ridiculous. And they were going at each other early.

That is just a very large human being slamming into another large human being and then getting the bucket. And then LeBron was going back at Zion.

Putting on a dribbling clinic and blowing past the rookie.

And then this utterly comical sequence in the second quarter.

Zion destroys Kyle Kuzma and then nearly destroys the rim. And then LeBron responds with a three from roughly a dribble inside half court. That was a shot that LeBron was working on before the game and then he nailed it.

That was awesome. Everything about that game was incredible. The Pelicans kept coming at the Lakers late, getting close, and then the Lakers would respond, like when LeBron stuck this in Zion’s eye.

There have been a lot of electric performances from LeBron this season, but that’s right near the top. They’re now 8-0 in the second game of a back-to-back and 19-2 on the road against the West.

And that’s before we even get into LeBron’s passing last night, which was unreal. Just ask Alvin Gentry, who still seemed to be in shock after the game.

Two things are clear: LeBron is playing at an MVP level. And LeBron won’t win the MVP this year. Not because he doesn’t deserve it, but because Giannis is also playing at an MVP level. In any other year, LeBron is running away with it. But this year, with Giannis averaging 30, 14 and 5, in less than 31 minutes per game on a team with a look at 70, nobody else is getting that trophy.

But that doesn’t mean that LeBron doesn’t deserve every bit of the credit that he’s getting. He does. And so does Zion. Again, that’s a 19 year old who went into last night with 10 straight 20 point games and then went for 35.

No wonder LeBron was praising him after the game, saying things like: "You have to actually be out on the floor to actually feel the strength and the speed that he plays at. It's a hell of a rookie class, I’ll tell you that. These kids are special."

And no wonder LeBron shared a moment with Zion after the game. Just don’t ask LeBron what he said, because he won’t tell you and don’t confuse showing respect with being soft.

“Kiss my ass. With a smile, too.”

This isn’t about the AAU-ification of the league. Or that guys don’t want to destroy each other on the court. Because there was absolutely nothing about how Zion and LeBron played last night that wasn’t about destroying the other guy or the other team. You can compete like hell during the game and then hug it after; that’s not a sign of being soft; it’s a sign of respect.

Don’t confuse that kindness with weakness. And if you think LeBron is getting weak or old, just go back and watch the game tape. Watch him absolutely bully everyone who came at him in the post, and pick apart the defense with passes, and then shove daggers in the eye of anyone on the perimeter. He’s showing respect to a young star, but he’s letting that young star know that it’s not your time yet. LeBron is still here.

And at this point, I’m not sure who I’m more impressed with, Zion or LeBron. Because they’re both ridiculous.