At 34, soon to be 35, LeBron James doesn't quite have the first step that he used to. Whereas a young James could once get around defenders with a single dribble, he now has to back the ball and out and get a head of steam to get around his opponents.
In recent years, James has found a new way around that: shooting pull-up three-pointers as his opponent backs up, preparing for the drive. Some eagle-eyed basketball observers have noted that James has a “tell” when he's going to shoot a three-pointer — he'll look down at the ball as he's dribbling, and then pull up.
On Sunday, James used that trait to his advantage. In the second quarter, Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng got switched onto James on the perimeter. James backed the ball out to isolate and Dieng. As he started dribbling toward Dieng, he looked down the ball, seeming to give his “tell” that he was going to a shoot a three.
Instead, James burst past Dieng and threw down a dunk that looked nothing like a 34-year-old in his 17th season.
As Rob Perez of The Action Network noted, Wolves forward Robert Covington tried to warn Dieng of the pull-up three, aware of James' give-away. James may have used that call-out to his advantage.
—Sherwob Holmes (@WorldWideWob) December 9, 2019
During James' prime years, the NBA world wondered what he would look like as he aged and couldn't physically dominate opponents anymore. James isn't the athletic specimen he used to be, but as evidenced above, he still has plenty of explosiveness when he needs it. He has also become a better shooter and added more to his bag of tricks. He's averaging 25.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 10.8 assists per game on 50% shooting, 36% from three, for the 21-3 Lakers.
So far, James' later years look just fine.