The Lakers got a major jolt in the arm on Friday with the return of LeBron James, who missed 20 games over a six-week stretch due to an ankle injury. It was the longest injury-related absence in James’ Hall of Fame career.
Los Angeles lost to the Kings despite James’ return as he missed a potential game-winner in the fourth quarter. Nonetheless, James looked strong in his return, logging 16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals and five turnovers in 32 minutes. James admitted he felt his injured ankle at times but was able to come out strong.
“For my first game in six weeks, I felt OK,” James said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “As far as my wind, I felt pretty good. As far as my ankle, it was a little tight at times, obviously. … But I came out unscathed and pretty good. So it’s a good start.”
James, 36, went on to make a stunning admission in regard to his health for the rest of his career. In his 18th NBA season, James has a lot of mileage on his body, and while his performance continues to be strong, he admitted he will likely never be at full strength again.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get back to 100%. It’s impossible,” he said. “I don’t think I will ever get back to 100% in my career.”
The Lakers will hope James can be as close to 100% as possible while the team tries to finish strong heading into the postseason. The defending champions now have James and fellow superstar Anthony Davis back from injury. The team struggled in their absence, falling to a 36-27 record, good for fifth in the Western Conference.
The return of their dynamic duos marks a new effort for L.A. to defend its crown with fewer than 10 games remaining in the regular season.
“It’s only nine games left,” James said. “It’s just been … it’s been a hell of a season, obviously. … But we look forward to the challenge. It is what it is. This is the season, and we’ve got to make the most out of it.”