The great thing about greatness is that sometimes it appears solely for the purpose of reminding everyone that it still exists.
This just in: LeBron James is still great.
The Cavs can play as slow, and be as disinterested as they want, but as long as LeBron is being LeBron, the mixed-up, shook-up, banged-up, bogged-down Cavs always have a puncher’s chance at victory.
Friday night’s haymaker proved that.
Friday night in Washington, in a 130-122 defense-optional Cavs victory, LeBron reminded everyone why he’s greater than everyone — and not a moment too soon.
Even with LeBron’s staggering stat line — 57 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, three steals, two blocked shots — if the playoffs had started Saturday the Cavs would not have been in them, unless the NBA suddenly changed the rules to include No. 10 seeds.
Fortunately for the Cavs, the playoffs did not start Saturday.
By the time they do start — which will be roughly around the time the Browns either trade the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft or forfeit it because they didn’t get their card to the podium in time — everyone assumes the Cavs will finally be healthy, happy and interested.
Instead of the way they looked in their first eight games of the season: hurt, grumpy and bored.
TNT’s Charles Barkley called them “a bunch of old geezers.”
Their record calls them a lottery team.
A lottery team that can’t beat a lottery team. Four of the Cavs’ five losses are to teams that were lottery teams last year: the Magic, Nets, Pelicans and Knicks. The Cavs lost to those four teams by a combined 67 points.
With the slow start, it’s open season on the Cavs. Everyone is dropping water balloons on them. Washington stars John Wall and Bradley Beal said the Cavs tanked late last year to avoid the Wizards in the playoffs.
Flat-Earther Kyrie Irving, who took a shot at Cleveland recently by saying how happy he is to be in Boston, “a real sports town,” was at it again last week. Irving threw Cavs coach Tyronn Lue under a bus Irving no longer even rides when he said he was “unbelievably craving” an “intellectual” coach,” which Irving says he now has with Boston’s Brad Stevens.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall when Lue heard about that quote.
But this is what you get when you’re the three-time defending Eastern Conference champs, who prior to Friday night had won only three more games than the Browns, and had looked bad and bored while doing it.
It’s been trash-the-Cavs season, until greatness showed up Friday and changed the narrative with a performance for the ages, a performance that looked like a man, if not a King, among boys.
“Game Score” is an advanced statistical tool, created by John Hollinger, to provide a rough measure of a player’s productivity in a single game. The score comes from a mathematical formula using several statistical categories which are distilled into a single number.
A game score of 10 is considered average. A game score of 40 is outstanding.
LeBron’s game score Friday night was 57.
As a point of reference, Steph Curry’s highest career game score is 49. Irving’s is 48. Russell Westbrook’s is 45, Kevin Durant’s 41.
When LeBron scored a career-high 61 points for Miami a few years ago, his game score was 48.
Game scores only go back to the early 1980s, so if you’re wondering what Wilt Chamberlain’s game score was from his 100-point, 25-rebound day at the office in 1962, so is everyone else.
In my own research, which is admittedly more selective than thorough, I could only find two game scores higher than LeBron’s 57. On March 28, 1990, Michael Jordan scored 69 points with 17 rebounds, six assists, four steals and one block — naturally, against the Cavs.
Jordan’s game score was 64.
On Jan. 22, 2006, Kobe Bryant scored 81 points with six rebounds, two assists, three steals and one block.
Bryant’s game score was 63.
Maybe LeBron’s game-for-the ages will be the official Cavs wake-up call for this season.
Despite the Cavs’ sleepy start, they still have a strong chance to return to the Finals for a fourth consecutive year. The addition to the lineup of Isaiah Thomas in late December or early January means the Cavs are adding a 28-points-per-game scorer, which will come in handy in the Cavs’ “If we can’t stop ’em, let’s outscore ’em” approach to winning basketball.
Tristan Thompson will miss a month with a strained calf, which means we probably haven’t seen the last of geezerball, since Thompson is their best defender and hardest trier.
The Cavs traditionally don’t get serious until after the holidays, so there’s that.
But there’s also this: LeBron is still great.
On some nights, that’s enough.