LeBron celebrates after a big play

From the Rafters: Don't Poke Bron

The best antidote to trash talk? Winning.  

Los Angeles-- After a 117-111 overtime win over the Grizzlies, the once-doubted Lakers have taken a 3-1 lead in Round 1 of the Playoffs. This game might not have gone the way it did without a 38-yeard-old, 4x Champion, 4x MVP in his 20th season.  

LeBron James made the 100-yard dash—or in his case, a smooth saunter from the players' parking lot to the Lakers locker room at 2:40 pm Monday afternoon, ahead of Game 4, at home, against the Memphis Grizzlies. He walked in with his black shades still on as he normally does. He was wearing a red and black sweater, black jeans, and a pair of Cactus Plant Flea Market Nikes on his feet.  

He walked as if he was floating, gliding in a way, with each foot facing outwards just a little...you know, the classic Bron walk. He had a subtle smirk on his face. Ahead of their second home game, he seemed relaxed... it’s weird to say, but Bron looked at peace.  

His general calmness lingered even as he ran out onto the floor, just after 6:00 pm, to get in some pregame shooting.  

While watching, it appeared like he was in his own world, on his own court. it was just him, the ball, and the hoop—no fans, no media, no one.  

Just before tip, the King waited in the players' tunnel that’s garnished from top to bottom with Lakers Playoff decals, he was hunched over with his hands resting on his knees. He had a look in his eyes like he was taking in everything— and nothing. His serenity had materialized into a deep concentration.  

That peace would soon retreat to the depths of Bron’s bones. In its place, a ferocity flushed into his veins late in the fourth quarter when LBJ charged through the lane and bullied Memphis’ Dillon Brooks out of the way as he went up for a basket, made it and got the foul. He walked over to the corner of the floor with his arms flexed, and with one of the meanest scolds you’ve ever seen in the game, he yelled at the crowd, pounded his chest, and then approached the foul line.   

Playoff Bron, activated.  

“You know how momentum plays are made,” LeBron explained when asked about his emotional response. “And you’ve been a part of moments where you know that you can get a dagger play or a kill shot, and I felt like that, that play right there. After I made that And-1, I don’t want to say I closed the door, but it sealed it a little bit. There wasn’t much light for the rest of the game.” 

After dismantling Memphis this past Saturday night, the Lake Show had the opportunity to strike twice at home. But what seemed like a promising start turned into a close game of contested calls and careless fouls— from both teams. 

As the minutes started to wane, doubt crept in. Even after containing Memphis’ primary shooter, Ja Morant, to 19 points, it felt like the Lakers were going to split their games at home. But after willingly taking two charges, with 0.8 seconds on the clock, a LeBron layup over Jaren Jackson Jr. forced overtime, 104-104.  

“I work on different layup packages,” James explained. “Tier 1 is a layup, just really right underneath the rim, where you lay it off the glass. Tier 2 is like the middle of the glass, the middle of the square. And tier 3 is over the top of the square. Shout out to Chris Johnson, we work on those depending on the shot blocker. So, I've had moments where I've been able to scoop those high layups.” 

Do you ever amaze and surprise yourself, Bron was asked after the game. “Yep,” he answered nodding his head, trying to keep a serious face.  

“When my teammates told me I had 20 and 20, I had no idea that I had 20 and 20,” LeBron pointed out.  

Basketball-wise, there really isn't too much Bron hasn’t done. But this is the first time in his 20-year career that he’s grabbed 20 boards. At this point, he doesn’t chase after NBA records, the NBA records find him... 

In Game 4, James broke a 50-year-old record, surpassing Wilt Chamberlain as the oldest player in the league to have a 20-20 game. Wilt was 36 years and 262 days old when he grabbed the accolade, LeBron is 38 years and 115 days old.  

After the win, as Austin Reaves walked off the floor after dropping a team-high 23 points, he looked into the lens of the camera following in front of him and said two words: “LeBron James.” 

“You know this is Austin’s first playoff series,” LeBron mentioned. “And we were talking after the game, and he was just talking about how much he loved this. He was saying this is the greatest thing he’s ever been a part of, like basketball wise.” 

Not long after Austin, the King retreated to the locker room where a bucket of ice was waiting. He had in his pocket 22 points, 20 rebounds, seven assists, and two blocks from the night. When he was out of the fans’ line of sight, he let out a deep breath, his peace reemerged.  

“These are the moments that I love,” LeBron said, dripping in exhaustion. “I love the postseason. I love being able to make plays, and be out there with my teammates, and give them experiences they’ve never had.”  

The team is back in Memphis on Wednesday with the hope of closing out the series.