Lakers star LeBron James says he’s ready for Year 21

LeBron James is set to begin his 21st season on Tuesday night in Denver as the Los Angeles Lakers face off against the Nuggets, a rematch of the Western Conference finals. The Lakers superstar is driven by the desire to add another NBA championship trophy to the franchise’s collection of 17 titles. With the potential to break the tie with the rival Boston Celtics, James sees this Lakers team as the ideal platform to solidify his legacy and achieve greatness.

The 2023-24 version of the Lakers, according to James, motivates him even more because of the talent and potential they possess. The image of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy is constantly on his mind, serving as a daily reminder of one of the greatest moments in his career. James aims to be legendary in the sport, allowing his game to speak for itself long after he has retired. The dedication and efforts of his teammates further fuel his motivation, as he witnesses their commitment to improvement during each practice.

Contrary to popular belief, James is not driven by trash-talking opponents, including those from the Nuggets. Instead, his three children, Bronny (19), Bryce (16), and Khuri (8), play a significant role in motivating him. James revealed that this season is dedicated to his eldest son, Bronny, after the health scare he experienced over the summer. Bronny suffered cardiac arrest during a team workout due to a congenital heart defect but has since undergone successful surgery and is working to make a comeback.

Family holds immense importance for James, and their motivation is what drives him the most. While he still finds motivation in competing against the best, he no longer requires external influences to fuel his performance. At 39 years old, James is entering his sixth season with the Lakers, aiming to follow in the footsteps of the franchise’s legendary players such as Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and others.

Reflecting on his Lakers journey, James acknowledges that he wanted to make a lasting impact with the franchise. He aimed to help the team return to the playoffs, a feat they hadn’t achieved in several years prior to his arrival. Winning an NBA championship in 2020 and bringing the Larry O’Brien Trophy back to Lakers owner Jeanie Buss were pivotal achievements for James. He considers everything that has come since then as extra credit.

Currently, James feels great physically, having recovered from a right foot injury that sidelined him for 27 games last season. Regaining his motor and focusing solely on the game has been a positive development for him. As the Lakers gear up to face the Nuggets in their season opener, they carry the weight of a Western Conference finals sweep and the subsequent NBA championship victory that Denver earned. The Nuggets have been taunting the Lakers with their victory parade and playful comments about James’ retirement.

While James is yet to respond directly to the Nuggets or others who have spoken about him over the years, he hints that there will come a time when everyone will understand his greatness. Lakers coach Darvin Ham provided updates on the team’s injury status, mentioning that guard Gabe Vincent is available for the season opener, but forward Jarred Vanderbilt is likely unavailable due to a sore left heel. Rookie guard Jalen Hood-Schifino’s status is still being evaluated as he deals with a sore right knee.

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Note: This article was originally published in the Los Angeles Times.


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