The 38-year-old’s dominant performance ended a three-game losing streak for the Lakers as he edges closer to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time NBA scoring record.
On Sunday, James became the second NBA player in history to pass 38,000 career points and, after Monday’s scoring frenzy, he is now just 316 points away from passing Abdul-Jabbar.
“I was extremely exhausted today, extremely tired. My body was sore,” James told reporters after playing back to back nights – the Lakers lost to the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.
“Once I step on the floor for warmups and the crowd fills in, it’s my job to go out and play the best way I can.
“I could have very easily took tonight off, but […] our ballclub couldn’t use me taking a night off tonight.”
It was the fifth time James had scored more than 35 points in his last seven games and he also tallied nine assists and eight rebounds against the Rockets.
The Lakers’ Russell Westbrook also looked to enjoy himself, scoring 24 points, but Houston managed to keep pace for much of the game.
Alperen Şengün had a big night with 33 points on 14/17 from the field to go along with 15 rebounds, six assists and four blocks for the Rockets, but it wasn’t quite enough to beat the Lakers who often looked to James when they needed to stay ahead.
“I think it’s historic, man, on a lot of different levels,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham told reporters after the game. “For him to be at this point in his career and still able to produce at the level in which he’s producing.
“I think all of us being able to witness it, be a part of it, it shows his competitive spirit, his no-quit mentality … Whenever he’s out there, he’s just been competing. Just how efficient he’s been. It’s amazing to see.”
Retirement advice for Brady
Elsewhere on Monday, Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers were dumped out of the NFL playoffs after losing 31-14 to the Dallas Cowboys.
Brady, who came out of a short lived retirement in 2022, is now left weighing up his future.
James, who despite his performances is also entering the twilight of his career, had some advice for the 45-year-old quarterback after beating the Rockets.
“Listen man, follow your heart, that’s all,” he told NBA TV.
“At the end of the day, follow your heart and your gut is gonna tell you what to do. That man’s been doing it for however long seasons, over 20 plus years, he’s been doing it at such a high level.
“So, it’s always my best wishes, not only my favorite quarterback, but also a really good dear friend of mine.
“So whatever he decides to do, I love seeing him on the field. It gives me inspiration to keep going at my age, so we’ll see what happens.”