NBA

Important to celebrate LeBron achievement despite Lakers loss – Vogel

By Sports Desk March 20, 2022

Frank Vogel was keen to take the time to acknowledge LeBron James' achievement in passing Karl Malone despite the Los Angeles Lakers' 127-119 defeat to the Washington Wizards.

With 38 points against the Wizards, James moved ahead of Malone (36,928) onto 36,947 for his career, now trailing only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) all-time.

For James, who has played 197 games fewer than Abdul-Jabbar, this was a 31st 30-point game of the season – behind only Joel Embiid (33).

Lakers team-mate Russell Westbrook described this latest accomplishment as "an amazing feat to witness", while Carmelo Anthony said he was "still in awe" of James.

James insisted he could not "separate" his own performance from the defeat – "all I care about is wins and losses," he explained – but that was not a stance Vogel agreed with.

"It's bittersweet, but I think it's important to separate it," the coach said.

"This is a moment of time that we can't get caught up in the pain of this loss and [must] recognise what an incredible feat this is for LeBron, doing it in the fashion that he did it.

"He just attacked the game tonight. He came in and was aggressive on both sides of the ball, the second night of a back-to-back, really playing with incredible energy after playing 45 minutes last night.

"It was just a signature performance in a game where he passes one of the greats and becomes the second all-time leading scorer in the history of the game.

"It's really impressive, and I'm super happy for him. It's awesome."

For a player so focused on results, this has been a tough season for James, with the loss leaving the Lakers just half a game ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans in ninth in the West at 30-41.

This is despite James' 29.8 points per game – the third-highest mark of his career and highest since 2007-08.

"It's just an incredible game, an incredible season, and I don't know where we'd be without him," Vogel said.

Happily for the Lakers, as they look set for the play-in game, Vogel believes James is still getting better.

"This year's no different. The fact that it's later in his career and he's still doing it at this level is different," he added.

"Obviously, the way he's continuing to evolve his game with the deep shooting, with the turnaround, fadeaway jump shot that Kobe [Bryant] and Michael [Jordan] had later in his career... He's growing as a receiver. That part is special."

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