LeBron James may be the most complete player the NBA has ever seen and now he’s the sole member of a statistical club that further validates his place in history.
By tallying 31 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his 12th triple-double of the season and 67th of his career in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 129-123 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday, James became the first player to record more than 30,000 points, 8,000 rebounds and 8,000 assists.
The feat comes just a little more than a month after James established the 30,000-point, 7,000-rebound, 7,000-assist club on January 23 – the same day he became the youngest player, and just the seventh overall, to score 30,000 points.
It’s impossible to say with certainty that we’ll never see another LeBron James, but it’s likely no one in the present or future will reach the milestones he’s set and continues to build on.
The stats only back up what we’ve witnessed for 15 years now – that no one has ever been so good in so many areas on a basketball court by blending a unique, versatile skillset with size, power, speed and durability.
“With the long list of so many great players that have come through this league, in the history of this league, for me to be the only [person] in a category, I think it’s pretty cool,” James said, via ESPN.
“It’s pretty cool. I take pride in my game. I’ve always taken pride in being a triple threat since I started playing basketball, and I never wanted to be labeled as a scorer.
“I always wanted to be labeled as just an all-around basketball player and I get more gratification out of the assists more than anything, because to get my guys great looks or they’re knocking down shots, that means a lot to me.”
Fittingly, James set the bar on the same night he closed out February by averaging a triple-double for a calendar month for the first time in his career.
He also joined Russell Westbrook, Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to average a triple-double in a calendar month in league history (minimum of five games), while being the oldest to do so at 33, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
In his 10 appearances in February, James averaged 27.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 10.5 assists and 54.6 per cent shooting. But a major chunk of that has come in the seven games James has played since Cleveland made wholesale changes at the trade deadline.
While his January numbers were nothing to sneeze at – 23.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 50.6 per cent shooting – James appeared to be affected by the Cavaliers’ toxic culture with the previous roster.
The new additions, however, have done more than just reinvigorate the team – they’ve lifted James’ spirits, allowing him to break out of his apathetic spell and play with joy once again.
“I’m just playing some good ball, and the most consistent thing for me right now is I’m available out there on the floor for my teammates,” said James. “They give me the room to go out and do what I need to do to help them as much as I can.
“And for me to have the month of February, when I averaged a triple-double for the first time in my career, I’m just trying to make plays, get rebounds and also try to score the ball a little bit as well. So, I would say for me individually, it was a pretty good month.”
It’s been easy to take James and his greatness for granted because of his longevity. But every now and again he sends a reminder of how special he has been, is and continues to be.
We’re now a few games removed from All-Star weekend and more than a few players have stepped it up and looked fresh coming out of the break.
No one has been better than Anthony Davis, as the New Orleans Pelicans star has put up historic numbers throughout the month and in the past seven games especially.
Here, we take a look at three other players who’ve been hot, as well as three who’ve struggled.
The Celtics guard has come out of the All-Star break sizzling to lead Boston to three straight wins. In his last 12 quarters, Irving has averaged 24.6 points, 6.3 assists and 6.6 rebounds while shooting a blistering 53.1 per cent from the field and 51.7 per cent from long range.
Jokic has made flirting with a triple-double a regularity over Denver’s past four games. The Nuggets’ only losses this month have come at the hands of Western Conference-leading Houston, as Jokic’s all-around offensive skillset has spurred them to a climb up the standings.
Nikola Jokic joins Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history 6'10" or taller to record 3 straight triple-doubles. Chamberlain had six such streaks during his career, including a 9-game stretch during 1967-68.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 24, 2018
via @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/P6hbD6ts2c
Randle, whose name was floated around during the trade deadline, is showing a more complete game since the All-Star break. In the Lakers’ three wins, the power forward has recorded a double-double in each, while averaging 6.0 assists. At 23, he’s still getting better.
Double Trouble!— NBA (@NBA) February 27, 2018
Brandon Ingram (21 PTS, 10 REB, 6 AST) and Julius Randle (19 PTS, 10 REB) both come up big in the @Lakers third straight victory, defeating the @ATLHawks 123-104!#LakeShow pic.twitter.com/cTkRtEN2IZ
Immediately after Griffin was traded to Detroit, the Pistons appeared to be reinvigorated. Over the last three games though, they’ve failed to crack 100 points and have fallen each time. Griffin has looked pedestrian with averages of 16.3 points, 3.3 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 38.7 per cent shooting.
A chance of scenery was needed for Thomas, but it’s not like he’s close to returning to his All-Star level from a season ago. After dropping 22 points in his debut with the Lakers, Thomas have averaged just 11.4 points, 4.0 assists and shot 34.6 per cent, even as LA have had success.
Isaiah Thomas literally throwing money away... pic.twitter.com/cMVg2najQk— Colin Ward-Henninger (@ColinCBSSports) February 27, 2018
So much for Cleveland being magically fixed with their moves at the trade deadline. The Cavaliers dropped two of their first three since the All-Star break, with Hill providing little offence in the defeats by averaging 4.0 points, 2.0 assists, 17.6 per cent from the field and 0-of-6 on 3-pointers.
There are hot streaks and then there’s what Anthony Davis is on right now.
Describing the New Orleans Pelicans star’s recent run as a ‘tear’ doesn’t do justice to the ridiculous numbers Davis has been putting up this month.
Specifically over the past seven games, the All-Star big man has averaged 37.6 points, 14.0 rebounds, 2.9 steals, 2.7 blocks and a shooting percentage of 51.9.
His most dominant effort came in Monday’s 125-116 win over the Phoenix Suns, in which he recorded a staggering 53 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks.
With the performance, Davis became just the second player in history with 50 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks in a game since blocks became a stat in 1973, joining Bob McAdoo who accomplished the feat in 1974.
It also gave him his fifth 40-point, 10-rebound game in February – the most over a calendar month in the past 35 seasons – while notching the third 50-point outburst of his career to make him the 11th player in history to reach the half-century mark three times before the age of 25.
“It’s amazing, but at the end of the day I just try to go out there and win. Do whatever I can do,” Davis said on having his name mentioned among the game’s greats.
“Of course being in a category with those guys, it’s an honor for me. I don’t go out there and try to get those points in any category. I just try to do what I can to help the team win.”
And win is what the Pelicans have been doing as a result of Davis putting the team on his back. New Orleans have reeled off seven straight and won eight of 11 this month to vault them up the Western Conference standings.
After DeMarcus Cousins went down with an Achilles tear on January 26, it looked like the Pelicans would be in a fight just to reach the playoffs. But after dropping five of their next six, New Orleans have righted themselves as Davis has surged and now sit fifth in the West, only two games in the win column behind Minnesota for third.
“Right now, everybody’s playing their part. Everybody’s doing it together,” Davis said. “And then we’re doing it without one of our main guys, so it makes it more special, especially when everybody thought we were going to go down in the standings. We’re actually moving up.”
By going supernova, Davis has raised the collective success of the Pelicans, but he’s also put his foot in the door for the MVP discussion.
New Orleans’ mediocrity for the first half of the season, coupled with the load being shared between Davis and Cousins, meant that the 24-year-old wasn’t being mentioned for the award. But even though his February numbers are unsustainable, Davis has at least injected his name into the conversation.
The clear frontrunner for MVP at the moment is Houston Rockets star James Harden, who has the stats worthy of the honour – averages of 31.4 points, 8.9 assists and 5.2 rebounds – and the title of best player on the best team (record-wise).
It’s unlikely Harden will be caught, even if Houston are overtaken by Golden State by year’s end, but Davis’ February run has been a reminder of his standing among the top players in today’s game.
While Giannis Antetokounmpo’s torrid rise this season has earned him praise as the next superstar to sit on the throne after LeBron James and Kevin Durant finish their primes, Davis has been equally impressive to pose a challenge to that claim.
Right now, it seems like there’s nothing Davis can’t do.