Less than a year removed from winning an NBA title, Miami Heat's LeBron James continues to build on his remarkable career, writes Steve Dilbeck.
NBA: LeBron James is 'making greatness look easy'
He is the greatest basketball player alive, a frightening thought for opponents. But here is one even more alarming: LeBron James is still getting better.
Hard to believe but impossible to ignore. In 2012, he led the Miami Heat to an NBA title and the United States to Olympic gold. The 2013 LeBron James is better than that guy.
"He's not just the best basketball player on the planet," his Miami teammate Dwyane Wade said. "He's surpassed the planet. He's somewhere else. He's playing phenomenal."
In a defeat of the LA Lakers on Sunday, James scored 32 points on only 18 shots, the sort of near-flawless performance that is becoming habit. He scored 30 while shooting at least 60 per cent for a fifth consecutive outing, joining Adrian Dantley (1979) and Moses Malone (1982) as the only players in NBA history to accomplish that.
"He's playing at a level rarely seen," said the Lakers guard Steve Nash, a two-time MVP.
James, 28 in December, is shooting a career-high 56 per cent. If he continues at that rate, he would set a personal high for the sixth consecutive season.
"He's making greatness look easy," said Erik Spoelstra, the Heat coach.
James always has been physically imposing, at 6ft 8ins (2.03m) and 240 pounds (108kg). He is one of the game's strongest players and has exceptional leaping ability. But now he has developed an outside shot to complement his charges to the basket; he is making a notable 42 per cent of his three-point shots.
He knows the game better than he did when he was younger, and also plays with utter confidence - more terrifying news for the rest of the NBA.
"He's unbelievable," said the Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, who coached James in the past two Olympics. "When everybody is down in practice, he's the guy that gets it going. His love of the game. Besides winning the gene-pool lottery, besides all that, he takes it to a different level that I don't know if anybody can go there, to be honest. He's unbelievable and he studies the game, there's just a lot of great things that he does.
"He has no weakness. That's about as good as you can get."
He also has regained hero status after a difficult first season, 2010/11, with the Heat that followed his controversial departure from Cleveland.
"Winning does a lot," James said. "I love to compete, I love to go against the best, I love to get out there with my teammates. And we're enjoying the way we're playing right now. I said before last season I was going to get back to playing the game and having fun. Ever since, it has been ongoing."
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