LeBron James drops 47 points on his 38th birthday as Lakers get thrilling win over Hawks

Some people celebrate their birthdays by going out to a nice dinner, maybe blowing out the candles on a chocolate cake, or going out with friends to celebrate their special day. But if you’re LeBron James you celebrate your birthday by demolishing the Atlanta Hawks, which is exactly what happened Friday night on James’ 38th birthday. The four-time champion dropped 47 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists to lift the Los Angeles Lakers to a 130-121 road win.

James joined Michael Jordan as the only other player in NBA history to record at least 45 points, 10 rebounds and five assists at 38 years of age, and his 47 points is the third-highest point total for a player after turning 38 years old. The other two players ahead of James are Jordan and Jamal Crawford, both of whom put up 51 points. 

It was James’ first 40+ point performance since March of last season where he dropped 50 points against the Washington Wizards, and the second-highest point total on his birthday. Coincidentally, James’ highest point total came on his 25th birthday back in 2009 when he dropped 48 points, also on Atlanta.

Though James finished the game in complete control against the Hawks, getting whatever he wanted every trip down the floor, that’s not how things started. James went 1 of 5 out of the gates, totaling just two points in the first quarter. But he followed that up with a 16-point, seven-assist second quarter, helping the Lakers stay within reach of a Hawks’ squad that had a 67-62 lead at halftime. James took advantage of Atlanta’s poor rim protection, doing a bulk of his damage under the rim as the Hawks had no one to slow him down. 

It was a masterful performance from LeBron, who showed once again that despite being in his 20th NBA season he can still perform at peak levels when needed. After the game, James said in his postgame interview that he told his teammates he was going to put up 40 points. 

“I called it before the game, so I had to make it happen,” James said. “After starting 1 for 5 I didn’t know if it was going to happen.”  

The impressive part about James’ performance was the efficiency in which he pulled it off. He finished the game 18 for 27 from the field and 4 of 6 from 3-point range, all four of those 3s coming in the fourth quarter. But his last field goal may have been the most impressive of the night. With the Lakers clinging to a four-point lead and just two minutes remaining, the Hawks sent the undersized Dejounte Murray to guard James, which didn’t end well for Atlanta. James proved he still has a quick enough first step to get by the young guys, and when the Hawks sent a help defender under the rim to provide some resistance, James effortlessly evaded that. He then drove to the other side of the rim, stopped, spun around and sunk a baby jumper just five feet from the rim to give him 45 points. It went something like this:

James was later serenaded with MVP chants from the Atlanta crowd as he went to the free throw line to sink his 46th and 47th points of the night. According to ESPN, James’ night gives him career 303 points scored on his birthday, surpassing Oscar Robertson who’s now second all time with 275.

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