They still belong

They still belong

The Lakers dodged a bullet yesterday. Against the rival Warriors, they didn’t have to just to go through double overtime to claim victory. They did so by relying on 39-year-old LeBron James, who burned rubber for a ridiculous 48 minutes. So much for restricting his exposure so that he has enough left in the tank when the playoffs arrive. And they needed every single one, too; his game-clinching free throws capped an outing in which he posted an astounding 36, 20, and 12, numbers not seen by the purple and gold since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s in the seventies.

The irony, of course, is that the Lakers cannot afford to have James coast in the regular season. They’re barely treading water, with their single-point win over the supposedly overmatched Warriors getting them a hair above .500 past the halfway mark of their 2023-24 campaign. And he wasn’t the only one toiling yesterday. Anthony Davis had to return to the match after a collision with Draymond Green in the third quarter produced a busted hip. Jared Vanderbilt was likewise walking wounded in extra time, having previously turned an ankle while trying to secure a loose ball.

The fans, to be sure, loved every instance of the encounter, and not simply because it featured the Lakers and the Warriors. The ebbs and flows mimicked those in postseason contests, with marquee names trading haymakers until the final buzzer. That there were also questionable calls and non-calls only added to the set-to’s allure. The 18,064 blue-and-yellow diehards at the Chase Center were, of course, disappointed at the close setback. That said, even the stars could not help but marvel at the quality of the battle in the aftermath. Stephen Curry, who very nearly played hero with a clutch trey in the second overtime, had 46, three, and seven, and told James as they exchanged post-mortem pleasantries, “How do we keep getting better?”

Indeed. There is already a youth invasion in the National Basketball Association. Sooner rather than later, the likes of James and Curry will give in to Father Time. If there’s anything yesterday’s humdinger underscored, however, it’s that they won’t be going down without a fight. For all their advancing age, they’re showing that they still belong, and how.


Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.