The past few days have featured the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James participating in games involving possibly two of the league’s next major stars.
On Saturday, King James got a closer look at the No. 2 overall pick, Ja Morant, as the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Lakers. A day later, it was Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans, whom the Lakers got a bounce-back win against.
It’s no surprise that following that second game, LeBron talked up the future stars of the league, with Ja and Zion among five players he specifically named. In addition, LeBron had a message for all the critics out there who have something to say about him being friendly with the future stars.
LeBron says ‘league is in great hands’
In Sunday night’s 122-114 win over the Pelicans, LeBron James achieved yet another triple-double in his career with 34 points, 13 assists, and 12 rebounds. No. 1 pick Zion Williamson — who shared the spotlight with James during their latest matchup — finished with a game-high 35 points and seven rebounds.
After the final buzzer sounded, the opposing players gave each other handshakes, hugs, and words of encouragement. That probably included whatever LeBron may have told young Zion. He didn’t make those comments public during his post-game interview.
“That’s up for him to tell ya’ll. I don’t really do it for the publicity. I do it for the love of the game and I do it for the guys that’s coming after me that have the same passion that I believe I had when I came up too,” LeBron said when asked about his conversation with Zion post-game.
“The league is in great hands in guys like Zion, Ja Morant, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Jayson Tatum, and the list goes on and on,” James also said in his comments after the game.
LeBron’s choices are a good representation of the future stars of the NBA. Ja Morant has been the frontrunner for NBA Rookie of the Year and has the Memphis Grizzlies contending for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference. Zion has only played 15 or so games so far in his rookie season, and has already shown doubters he’s the real deal with impressive performances.
Luka Doncic, Trae Young, and Jayson Tatum have also made their cases early on. The three young players became first-time NBA All-Stars this year and continue to impress whenever they’re on a court. While LeBron said “the list goes on and on” in his comments, that list alone is quite a collection of talent, and most likely includes five players who are going to enjoy amazing careers before all is said and done.
LeBron delivers a strong message to his critics
LeBron James’ respect for the new generation of stars is for real. He addressed the notion after the game that some critics think he’s “buddy-buddy” with opponents, when in fact it’s more about showing the love.
“Anybody that says that ‘LeBron why would he do that while he’s playing? Is he showing a sign of weakness? He’s buddy-buddy with guys he’s going against.’ Tell them they can kiss my ass … with a smile too,” King James said as a response to those critics.
LeBron’s respect and love for the way his opponents play is one thing. His ability to defeat them in games is another. He showed that by enjoying the competitive moments of Sunday’s game in which he got the better of Zion with a win in New Orleans.
While many players call it a career after playing as long as LeBron has and achieving what he has, James is not quite finished yet.
That said, he also clearly recognizes that when he does announce a retirement someday, he’s passing the league on to some amazingly talented stars including the five he named. Showing his admiration for opposing players will only help to further the future greatness of the game in the wake of LeBron’s legacy.